Close legal loopholes to save lives, MKs urge

"Its not enough to express horror, disgust, anger and sadness at what happened to Rose," MK Nadia Hilou (Labor) says.

MK Nadia Hilou 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
MK Nadia Hilou 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A day after the story of Rose Pizem shocked the country, the Knesset Committee charged with protecting children's rights announced Wednesday that it had scheduled an urgent meeting to examine the incident and try and hammer out possible ways of preventing similar cases in the future. But simply hearing expert testimony, said MK Nadia Hilou (Labor), chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on Children's Rights, was not enough. Parliamentarians, she argued, should try to draft legislation to close loopholes that may have helped Rose's disappearance go uninvestigated for three months. "Its not enough for me - or for society - to express horror, disgust, anger and sadness at what happened to Rose," Hilou said Wednesday. "I want to know how it could have been prevented. Are we lacking legal tools or other resources that could have helped Rose in this situation?" Hilou says that her initial instinct tells her that there are legislative measures that can be taken in order to make stories such as Rose's even less common. She has begun to "investigate the possibility" for legislation in three specific fields that may help avoid such situations in the future. First, she said, she is considering drafting an amendment to the existing law requiring citizens to report cases of abuse against children. In its current format, she said, the law requires citizens filing complaints to identify themselves - a situation that deters people from reporting abuse. "Many times, neighbors don't want to stir up trouble," explained Hilou, proposing that police be allowed to accept anonymous complaints when there is a suspicion of child abuse. The second piece of legislation that she is considering is one concerning expanding the pool of people who can report a child as missing. Currently, only family members of the child are allowed to file complaints regarding their disappearance, but sometimes - particularly in cases such as Rose's - parents have a clear interest in not reporting the disappearance, especially as they are frequently involved parties. And although she acknowledges that it may at first seem exceptional, Hilou proposes that legislators consider the possibility of requiring basic parenting courses for first-time parents. "Currently, there is no such opportunity for parents to have free courses - and in a culture in which people take courses for everything, they should be made available as well. We need to better equip parents to deal with the situations that they will confront," she explained. Currently, there are a number of "preparation for parenthood" courses offered in Israel, but they are only taken by a small fraction of parents, and they all charge tuition to would-be participants. Hilou says that the need for such a course is emphasized by the fact that in the past year alone, 38,000 children in Israel received services under the Law for Children's Care, which provides intervention for children who are victims of abuse and neglect. Of those 38,000 children, Hilou added, 84% were cases in which they had suffered physical abuse at the hands of family members. Both Welfare Minister Yitzhak Herzog and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter have been invited to testify before the committee meeting, which was scheduled for this coming Tuesday, despite the fact that the Knesset is currently on recess.