Two bills to help women attain a 'get' pass Law c'tee

Proposed legislation calls on rabbinic courts to impose sanctions on recalcitrant spouses who refuse to grant divorce.

By JONAH MANDEL,
July 5, 2011 20:44
3 minute read.
IN ISRAEL, where civil family law ‘is’ Jewish law,

Jerusalem Rabbanut 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Two bills aimed at alleviating the woes of women whose husbands refuse them divorces passed the Knesset Law Committee on Tuesday, ahead of votes in the plenum.

The proposed law put forth by MK Othniel Schneller of Kadima, initiated by the Mavoi Satum (Dead End) NGO, determines that rabbinic courts will have to hold a hearing on a recalcitrant husband within a maximum of 45 days from when the court ordered he give his wife a get (Jewish divorce). At the hearing, the judges will debate whether to issue sanctions on the husband.

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The original proposal as composed by lawyer Batya Kahana-Dror, director of the NGO, would have sanctions immediately applied if the husband refuses the court order to give the get.

MK Zevulun Orlev’s bill would establish a mechanism to oversee the implementation of sanctions against recalcitrant husbands, issued by the rabbinic courts.

The Habayit Heyehudi lawmaker’s bill would increase the efficiency of hearings on recalcitrant husbands and prevent women from being “chained” to them for years. Orlev’s bill was initiated by the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women.

Ruth Halperin-Kadari, director of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women at Bar-Ilan University, said the concept was to give the rabbinical courts a system that will automatically convene a hearing when spouses are ordered to grant a divorce but it still has not been given.



These two bills together will now make the rabbinic courts obligated to set a date for a divorce, and if that does not happen it will pave the way for imposing sanctions.

In 1995, a law was passed that allowed the rabbinic courts to impose sanctions but research undertaken by the Rackman Center noted that only in one or two percent of the cases are such sanctions imposed. A report by the State Comptroller’s Office found that when sanctions are imposed on the spouse, the results are successful.

“It is an effective tool but it is not being used,” said Halperin-Kadari, adding that the wives are not appealing to the rabbinate to impose the sanctions.

This law will remedy that because the rabbis will now be forced to call a hearing and follow up on what is happening with the divorce cases.

Kahana-Dror called the bills “a significant step in the right direction,” but stressed that in their current form, which doesn’t actually order the issue of sanctions, rather set frameworks and dates for a debate on them, the bills “are entirely inadequate. This is a real compromise for us.”

According to Kahana-Dror, one in every five women seeking a divorce could be considered “chained.” She said that between 1995-2008, 40,000 divorce files were opened that were not ruled upon.

According to Jewish law, a woman cannot remarry until her husband agrees to give her a get. Women waiting for an intransigent husband to give a get are known as agunot, or chained women. If an agunah does marry without receiving a get from her former husband, the children born of the second marriage are considered illegitimate, or mamzerim. A mamzer is forbidden to marry.

The International Coalition of Agunah Rights (ICAR), which represents an affiliation of 27 organizations working to find a solution to the problem of women whose husbands are unable or unwilling to grant them a Jewish divorce, estimate that hundreds of women in Israel are currently caught in such limbo.

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