A bill that could place electronic tracking bracelets on the arms of domestic abusers is “pathetic,” leading activists said on Monday.
The bill is “a very watered down, pathetic kind of law,” said Shalva Weil, founder of the Israeli Observatory on Femicide. Weil spoke a day after the government fast-tracked the bill’s passage.
The cabinet’s decision was to apply a continuation clause to the bill, which passed its first reading on the Knesset floor in 2022 but did not proceed further. This means that the Knesset may now pick up the legislative process from where it was left off, instead of having to launch the process from the beginning.
The legislation would enable courts to order bracelets to protect victims of domestic abuse. This version of the bill is different than how it was previously proposed, since National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir placed several new clauses in this once, which he said would “balance” the rights of victims and perpetrators.
The National Security Committee approved a version of the bill in June. That one allowed courts to issue an electronic monitoring bracelet to a person if it could determine that the person poses a “high danger” to a family member, or if there is a substantiated concern that the person will violate a restraining order.
The new bill requires that the court order electronic bracelets only for those with a prior conviction or a restraining order.
Bill has been stripped of effectiveness
Weil, who is also a senior researcher at the Seymour Fox School of Education at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, said the bill has been stripped of its effectiveness.
“The likelihood of this law being anywhere effective is nearly zero,” Weil said. “On the other hand, if it saves even one person’s life in 10 years, I’m for it.”
Weil added that this year, the Israeli Observatory on Femicide tallied 16 cases of femicide, which she defined as killing a woman just because of the fact that she is a woman. In only two of those cases had the victim previously turned to the police for help, and only one of the two had filed a complaint. Thus, only one perpetrator of those 16 cases could be a “candidate” for an electronic bracelet, Weil noted.
“It’s completely unbelievable. Out of those two, I reckon they would start doing committees and psychiatric treatments, and this and that, and then they would finally give someone a bracelet, by which time, if he’s really intent on killing his wife, he would have done so.”
Anita Friedman, who chairs the Women’s International Zionist Organization, which has lobbied for an electronic tracking bill for the past decade, said she was “very pleased” by the bill.
Friedman also said she was content that the current bill still allows the courts to order an electronic bracelet for a week without any conditions, if it believes that the abuser is an immediate threat to his family. She added that WIZO effectively lobbied against a condition that would require two previous convictions before a court can order an electronic bracelet, though, she said, “we still have long ways to go.”
Orit Sulitzeanu, the executive director at the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel disagreed, emphasizing that the condition of a previous conviction makes the law “impractical.
“Everyone who deals in violence against women knows that to get a conviction from the court... takes a long time,” she said.
Oftentimes, even when women file a domestic violence complaint, it does not lead to a conviction because it is difficult to produce evidence of sexual or domestic violence, Sulitzeanu added.
“Many times [women] suffer quietly from the violence, they suffer and suffer and suffer and suffer, they are totally afraid, totally scared to go to the police,” she said. “And one day, they die; that’s what happens. Many women will die before they get this electronic bracelet.”
Rise in femicide cases
The bill’s advancement comes amid an overall rise in femicide cases over the past two years, according to Weil. In 2022, there were 24 femicides, compared to 16 in 2021. Half of the women killed in 2022 were from the Arab sector, which makes up 21% of the total population.
Adan Knana, the media coordinator of Women Against Violence, an NGO focusing on Palestinian women issues, said that the new law will not protect Arab women, who are already afraid of going to the police.
“Women from around the world are suffering, in general, but I think that especially for Arab women, it’s a double problem,” Knana said. “On the one hand you don’t trust the police or the government. Then, you have the life risk issue. It is in the government’s interest that we die. They don’t invest in what is needed to keep women safe.”
Both Sulitzeanu and Weil charged the current government, and Ben-Gvir particularly, with ignoring women’s issues.
“[This law] is one of lots of others and shows that women do not have an important or salient position in Israeli society at present,” Weil said.
Friedman said that the government has not done its part to help women “by a long way.
“In this government, there are very few women that are a part of the decision making: the fact that the CEOs of the new ministers are all men and the only women that were there were let go, attests to the fact that we still have a long way to go,” she said. “The moment that women are not in the centers of decision making, decisions won’t be made in favor of women and children. We know that, we have seen that many, many times.”
Eliav Breuer contributed to this report.