mother and daughter family 521.
(photo credit: iStockphoto)
A Justice Ministry panel called to revoke a 40-year-old law that grants custody
of all children under age six to the mother. The proposal suggested the law be
replaced with a gender-equal alternative but did not spell out the
The panel, charged with assessing a law determining which parent
should receive custody of a child during divorce proceedings, reached its
conclusion this week.
While the findings of the committee, which has been
meeting for more than five years and is headed by Dr. Dan Schnitt, have yet to
be made public, they were discussed in detail at a conference held at the
Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University
Already Schnitt’s recommendations are causing a
The controversy is over whether or not Article 25 of the Capacity
and Guardianship Law, known as the Tender Years Presumption Law, which
automatically awards custody of children under six to the mother, has a place in
Dr. Ruth Halperin-Kadari, chairwoman of the Rackman
Center, a member of Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Law and Israel’s
representative on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against
Women, told The Jerusalem Post
Thursday that the problem was not over whether or
not to cancel the law but about the alternatives.
“The problem is that
the [Schnitt Committee] recommendation to cancel the law comes without any
guiding principle to put in its place,” she commented, adding that such a vague
system could be disastrous, forcing couples involved in custody disputes to take
unprecedented measures against each other and exposing children more than ever
to the custody process.
“The Presumption Years Law managed to leave the
children out of the dispute,” said Halperin-Kadari, “but canceling it will mean
involving them in a major way, which is ironic because everyone wants to do what
is best for the children but the result will be exactly the opposite.” She added
that women’s rights activists have already planned to challenge the Schnitt
proposal on every level.
Calling it “populist legislation,” she added:
“It seems to us that the proposal to abolish the Presumption Law is simply
yielding to political correctness using the rhetoric of equality.
we are saying is that our society has not yet reached the time or situation
where mothers and fathers are truly equal and truly share in upbringing children
in Israel,” she continued. “This is simply not the case in Israeli society,
there has been no social revolution in changing the roles of fathers and
A spokesman for Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman told the Post
that the minister had yet to receive the Schnitt Committee’s official report and
that he would need time to study its conclusions.
In its preliminary
recommendations made more than three years ago, the committee – which was made
up of both secular and religious judges, lawyers and non-government
professionals, academics and medical staff – pointed out that “Guardianship is
the responsibility of both parents even after divorcing” and that the courts
should place an emphasis on “what is best for the child in order to ensure his
or her healthy development.”
In addition, a complaint submitted last year
to the United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the
Coalition for Children and Family (CCF), an Israeli non-profit organization
vying for father’s rights, blasted the legislation as “blatantly discriminatory
Despite Israeli government reassurances that the Tender
Years Presumption Law does take into consideration the best interests of the
child and that joint custody is an increasing phenomenon here, the UN committee
expressed serious concern over the practice.
“If it was not for crazy
feminist hate-inciting monsters we could have achieved this change in
legislation in 2003,” commented Daniel Zer, a father who has not seen his son
for more than two years and who is active in the CCF. “This would already have
brought us a whole slew of changes, including in the area of divorces and the
rabbinical courts, which is also a problem for many men.”
Zer said that
Schnitt’s recommendations were not that relevant because it was the state’s
obligation to remove this specific law because “Israel’s basic laws require
He said that it was time for Israel to adopt similar measures
followed in most Western country regarding custody placement.
either needs to be gender mutuality, where the law is simply silent about the
gender of the parent and bases the decision on the best interest of the
children,” said Zer, “or there needs to be joint custody with a two-home
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