On day for ending violence against women, we need less talk, more action - editorial

Israel took a stand on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to recognize the seriousness of abuse, but it is not enough.

 Abuse (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Abuse (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Israel, along with the rest of the world, on Thursday marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a day meant to recognize the battle to end sexual and domestic abuse directed toward women.

It came one day after a Gilboa Prison guard reportedly confirmed a 2018 finding that female prison guards were pimped out to inmates.

There’s an opportunity now, as the world opens back up amid the corona pandemic, to hope for a better future. The UN is recognizing this hope with its campaign “Orange the World,” with orange representing the image of a future without violence toward women and girls.

Israel took a stand on Thursday to recognize the seriousness of abuse. Buildings lit up in red, political leaders visited women’s shelters, and the now-annual Tel Aviv march against violence also made waves, bringing out thousands in the name of eliminating abuse.

Israel has not sat by idly as this crisis has grown. It officially joined the Istanbul Convention, the first international, legally binding agreement that creates a comprehensive framework for countries to approach the crisis of violence against women, marking a massive step in the movement for the eradication of abuse.

 Israelis light candles in memory of women murdered in domestic violence, at a set up memorial on Rothschild Boulevard, ahead of International Day of Violence Against Women. November 24, 2020.  (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90) Israelis light candles in memory of women murdered in domestic violence, at a set up memorial on Rothschild Boulevard, ahead of International Day of Violence Against Women. November 24, 2020. (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

Israel has taken major strides internally, as well: the major hospitals of Israel have opened acute medical units (AMUs), which treat medical situations such as rape and abuse. Just this week, a rapist was caught due to the evidence and testimony collected at an AMU.

Transportation Minister and head of the gender equality committee Merav Michaeli said that NIS 155 million will go toward Israel’s plan to combat violence against women.

The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved in a first reading in mid-October a bill that would save samples taken from victims of sex crimes for 50 years.

It isn’t just policy: victims of abuse have seen justice served to their attackers, with Eliran Malul – murderer of Michal Sela, his former wife – being convicted in early October, and Aviad Moshe being convicted for the attempted murder of his wife, Shira Isakov.

Surely, there is an air of change in Israel. But it is not enough.

We encourage the government to not just speak the names and preserve the memories of the victims of abuse – especially those 21 women who were murdered in acts of domestic abuse this year alone – but to act and push for the UN’s “orange” – that bright future without abuse toward women and girls.

More budgets must be allocated to create safe spaces for women, and for mandatory educational programs in schools – because abusive tendencies oftentimes start at a young age. Programs for abusive men should also be made available. With all of this, the next murders could be prevented. It requires the right steps.

Moreover, regulations must be put in place to monitor systemic patterns of sexual abuse within governmental systems, including in the healthcare system, which has been accused of refusing to release data about sexual harassment and assault among its staff.

This also includes the prison system. Female guards being pimped out has no place in a modern democratic state.

Steps must also be taken to prevent financial abuse, such as the prevention of access to finances in abusive familial systems. Laws set forth around the world to prevent such atrocities, which can make one’s home feel like prison, are nowhere to be seen in Israel.

Indeed, when discussing the subject in 2020, MKs from the Likud and the Religious Zionist Party said that financial abuse may actually be the prevention of wasteful spending on clothing, basing their argument on outdated gendered stereotypes that have no place in a government committee meeting. A bill has been discussed on the subject, but nothing has been procured.

Once more, words are proven meaningless when no action is taken. It is the government’s responsibility to bring about the change necessary to eradicate this shadow pandemic.