Israel to expand state-funded legal aid to sex assault victims

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar drafted a bill on Sunday to ease the bureaucratic process for sexual assault victims

Protests in support of the 13-year-old rape victim of alleged suspect Yarin Sherf. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Protests in support of the 13-year-old rape victim of alleged suspect Yarin Sherf.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar drafted a bill on Sunday to expand state-funded legal aid to sexual assault victims.

The bill, if passed by the Knesset, would mean all victims of sexual assault receive state-funded legal aid automatically, starting from the investigative stage, in both criminal and civil cases. Previously, victims of sexual assault would have to submit a form confirming their entitlement to legal aid based on their financial situation. 

Victims of certain sexual offenses are currently provided legal assistance by the state in a number of cases, but the assistance is provided in cases in which an indictment has been filed – with the vast majority of complaints never reaching such a stage.

Sa'ar's bill, drafted with the recommendations of Judge Dvora Berliner's interministerial committee to examine the treatment of sexual offenses victims in mind, will cost the government NIS 12 million annually.

 Israel's Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar is seen speaking at the Jerusalem Post annual conference at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2021. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Israel's Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar is seen speaking at the Jerusalem Post annual conference at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2021. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

"This is another step in a series of legislative amendments for the benefit of sexual assault victims," said Sa'ar. "All amendments are intended to improve the attitude of Israeli law enforcement towards victims." 

Earlier in October, protesters gathered in Rabin Square demanding the state provide legal assistance to victims of sexual offenses from the moment victims file a complaint. Israel Police have recently been criticized for their handling of the filing of a number of complaints about sex offenses. 

Eve Young contributed to this report.