40 MKs signed a letter by MK Alon Tal calling on Israel to become the first non-European country to join the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence on Thursday.
The convention, also known as the "Istanbul Convention," is the most far-reaching international treaty designed to address domestic violence and violence against women. Signatories to the convention commit to a number of measures, including establishing free 24/7 hotlines and rape crisis centers and providing psychological counselling and medical care to survivors.
The convention also encourages authorities to provide educational programs about gender equality, sexuality and healthy relationships.
"This is the time to take responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of women and children who live in fear of physical, economic and emotional terror and for the country to strengthen the existing services for these families," reads the letter sent to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday.
"We know without a doubt that the COVID-19 lockdowns exacerbated tensions in many Israelis families and the results for many were disastrous," said Tal. "The centers for victims of sexual violence report dramatic increase in complaints and attacks within Israel. The situation is unimaginable and intolerable."
The MK stressed that Israel needs to do more to address domestic violence in the country. "Our letter to prime minister Bennet is a rare example of non-partisan cooperation with Knesset Members from both the Coalition and Opposition, joining together in a call to have Israel be part of the enlightened international community who realize that violence against women can no longer wait.”
The UN will mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25. The Knesset will hold a special event this year which will focus on the call to join the Istanbul Convention.
In June, report by State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman found that domestic violence complaints had risen by 800% during the coronavirus pandemic. 13 women were killed by their partners in 2020, an increase of 160% compared to 2019. Requests for help from domestic violence victims to welfare centers and shelters rose by 26%.