Knesset to impose more restrictions on men refusing divorce

Proposed amendment falls short of the kind of measures which would eradicate the problem altogether; restrictions include travel ban, imprisonment.

October 28, 2011 03:32
3 minute read.
Otniel Schneller 311

Otniel Schneller 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) expressed hope on Thursday that a bill designed to increase the use of punitive sanctions against husbands who refuse to give their wives a bill of divorce will help to significantly reduce the number of such cases.

The bill, proposed by Schneller, would obligate rabbinical courts to automatically set hearings within one to three months, to discuss whether or not to impose sanctions in a case in which the court already instructed the recalcitrant husband to give his wife the bill of divorce, or “get.”

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Jewish law stipulates that a divorce can only be enacted if a husband gives a get to his wife.

If he refuses she cannot remarry and a get is only valid if it is given of the husband’s free will.

According to Mavoi Satum, an advocacy group for divorce reform that has partnered with Schneller in devising the bill, there are thousands of such women in Israel.

At present, when a husband refuses to give a get – even after instructed to do so by the court – the process involved to enforce the ruling can drag on for years.

“Whenever a person sees an act of criminality they need to fight against it,” Schneller told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“If the rabbinical court issues a ruling then it must be adhered to and, in this case, the husband must comply and give his wife a get.

“We’re talking about what is essentially a matter of life and death because a young woman who needs a get is totally stuck,” Schneller continued.

“She can’t get remarried, she can’t have children – she can’t get on with her life in any way.”

Sanctions can include numerous punitive measures, such as preventing the husband from traveling abroad, confiscation of his driver’s license, and even imprisonment.

The bill is due to come before the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Tuesday and, if it is approved, will go to the Knesset for its second and third (final) readings.

According to Mavoi Satum, the number of cases in which sanctions are applied is extremely low.

Such measures are taken, according to the organization’s Director Batya Kehana, in as little as 1.5 percent of all cases of recalcitrant husbands, because the rabbinical courts are afraid that the sanctions will have forced the husband into giving the get of his own free will, and thus invalidate it.

“The importance of legally placing the responsibility of recalcitrant husbands on the shoulders of the rabbinical courts would be an important achievement in ensuring that they do not ignore the phenomenon of husbands flouting their rulings,” Kehana told the Post.”

She added, however, that the proposed amendment falls short of the kind of measures which would eradicate the problem altogether. Mavoi Satum initially proposed that the amendment bill would automatically impose sanctions as soon as a court instructs the husband to give a get, but representatives of the rabbinical courts rejected such a proposal.

The Rabbinical Courts were not available for comment as to why such measures were rejected.

“Our experience is that when sanctions are imposed, especially imprisonment, they are extremely effective,” Kehana said. “We’ve had a couple of cases in which a man who refused to give his wife a get for years spent one night in prison and then gave his wife the get the next day.

“It’s completely justified. If someone deprives a person of their liberty, as is the case when men refuse to give a get, then they deserve to be deprived of their own liberty.”

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