Female MKs welcome court's decision on Katsav

"Justice was done," says Yacimovich, who testified at trial for prosecution; Livni: complainants "should inspire anyone afraid to complain."

Shelly Yacimovich_311 (photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
Shelly Yacimovich_311
(photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
Women’s groups and MKs hailed the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday to uphold a lower court’s ruling to convict former president Moshe Katsav of rape and other sexual offenses. Not only does the ruling empower women to speak out against their attackers, they said, but it also shows that all citizens, regardless of their status, are equal before the law.
“Justice has been done and has been seen to have been done,” declared Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich, who testified for the prosecution at the District Court trial, adding that “Israeli citizens know there is equality before the law.”
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She asserted that the ruling strengthened the position of women in the country: “They now know that their bodies are not cheap and that if, God forbid, they are the victims of sexual predators, they will get help and justice from the police, from the prosecution and from the courts.”
The Supreme Court ruling, which unanimously upheld the Tel Aviv District Court’s guilty verdict in the case, means that Katsav will start a seven-year jail term early next month.
MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) commented, “There is now hope that this is the last stop for convicted rapist Moshe Katsav. The Supreme Court has expressed its trust in the version presented by the plaintiff, ending any doubts.”
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni echoed this sentiment, adding that “from now on, nobody will dare to assert that these were women who tried to harass the president, but that they are brave women who should inspire anyone who is afraid to complain.”
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, who heads the Ministerial Committee on the Status of Women, said that while Katsav’s conviction was “regrettable,” the court’s decision sent an important message.
“Victims of sexual assault now know that though the road to truth and justice is long, hard and tortuous, eventually justice will be done,” she said.
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, said that Katsav’s conviction was a “turning point for women’s autonomy over their own bodies.”
“The Supreme Court’s decision sends a message to all men, especially politicians, that a woman’s body belongs to her and her alone,” she declared.
Shortly after the decision was announced, Gila Oshrat, who chairs the Department for the Advancement of the Status of Women at the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), told The Jerusalem Post that “true equality means that any citizens, regardless of their status in society, can find justice in the legal system.”
“I think all citizens of this country should welcome what happened today in that courtroom, and not just the women,” she continued, affirming that the decision was “also very important for... the victims in this case.”
“While I am not sure it will release them from the jail that they will be in all their lives, it will empower other women to come forward with their complaints,” she said. “From the beginning, there were those who tried to delegitimize these victims, but we now see that justice has won, and we hope that he goes to jail as soon as possible.”
Oshrat also said that while WIZO, which is among the numerous women’s rights groups that have provided support to the women involved, was delighted with the outcome, it was still unfair that the disgraced president would not start his prison term immediately, as any other convicted rapist would.
“The law should be the same for anyone,” she asserted.
Michal Rozin, executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI), also welcomed the decision, noting that “not all of Katsav’s victims got their day in court, so this decision will really strengthen them.”
Overall, she said, it marked an important step in the fight against sexual violence and harassment, especially in the workplace.
“We know that roughly 99 percent of victims of this type of crime do not come forward and report what has happened to them, but this ruling shows that there is a sympathetic system that will hear their stories,” said Rozin. “The court has recognized the trauma that women go through, and I hope that the general public will also realize that instead of questioning the victims, asking them, ‘Why did you go there?’ or ‘Why are you only talking about this now?’ it is time to support these victims.”
“I am proud of the Israeli legal system,” stated Talia Livni, who chairs women’s rights group Na’amat. “The Supreme Court judges have made a profound statement showing full understanding of the complexity of sexual offenses.”
She added that though “Katsav’s victims will carry the scars of this affair for many years to come, at least now the State of Israel can leave this very ugly chapter in its history behind.”