Demonstrators in Tel Aviv protest violence against women at a rally last night, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. .
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
It’s a scourge on the country that refuses to go away. Every time it happens, we’re shocked anew as the news comes out about another murdered woman.
Most of the homicides – more than 20 in 2018 – are at the hands of the victims’ spouses or other relatives. Only this week, the horrid news of two young girls murdered – in Tel Aviv and in Gush Halav – showed that age is not a factor when violence against women is concerned.
But they are not the only manifestation of violence against women in Israeli society. In 2017, approximately 14,000 applications were processed in 113 centers and units for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence, funded and supervised by the Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry.
That’s surely just the tip of the iceberg, as most cases of domestic violence go unreported and remain hidden behind closed doors.
Then, there’s the issue of sexual harassment, which due to the #MeToo era has started to receive the attention it deserves. The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel released its annual report last week, which found a significant increase in the number of sexual assault complaints. The Post’s Tamara Zieve reported that in 2017, the center received some 47,000 calls, marking an 11% increase in comparison to 2016, when there were 10,610 calls, and a 53% increase since five years ago, when that number was just 7,701.
But according to Miriam Scheller, director of the Tel Aviv Assistance Center, of the 4,816 cases of sexual abuse or harassment that were opened in 2017, 84% were closed and only 16% resulted in an indictment.
Sunday’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women provided another chance to raise the issue in the public’s consciousness.
At a rally held at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Scheller said: “We call for an end to the reality in which more and more women are raising their voices, but the authorities refuse to listen.”
Part of the blame can be traced straight to the government. Last week, the coalition voted against a bill to set up a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the phenomenon of murder of women in Israel.
The issue was raised when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a battered women’s shelter in Jerusalem on Sunday. The prime minister said that he hadn’t followed the legislation and noted that it probably hadn’t passed because it was an opposition bill.
Later, he issued a statement saying, “I discovered that we are doing almost nothing to those who are generating this crime. It’s like dealing with terror, and this is terror for all intents and purposes...”
It’s kind of astounding that a prime minister who has been in office for nearly a decade is just waking up to a basic fact of life like that.
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting which focused in part on the issue of violence against women, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked outlined some plans to stem the epidemic, including a bill to prevent economic violence – a term used to include the denial of economic resources to a spouse – and another bill that would permit courts to order electronic monitoring of domestic violence suspects released on bail.
Netanyahu announced that he would chair the next meeting of the ministerial committee on domestic violence, usually chaired by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. However, a previous committee established for the same reason made recommendations two years ago that the cabinet endorsed but never funded.
While it is too late for all the victims of violence, it’s not too late for the government to begin acting in earnest against the phenomenon. The Knesset rejection of the parliamentary committee of inquiry points to a partisan aspect of an issue that should cut across all party and ideological affiliations.
We agree with the words of Sara Netanyahu, who said on Sunday during the visit with her husband to the women’s shelter for victims of domestic violence: “On this issue, there really should be no coalition and opposition. It’s an issue we all share.”