Knesset passes bill pressuring men to give ‘get’ (JERUSALEM POST) By JEREMY SHARON 03/21/12)
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A bill designed to expedite the process of sanctioning husbands who
refuse to give their wives a get, or bill of divorce, passed into law
Monday night in the Knesset plenum, which approved its second and
The new law stipulates that once a rabbinical court has ruled that
the husband must give his wife a get, he must do so within 45 days.
If he refuses, the court is obliged to hold a hearing within another
45 days to discuss imposing punitive sanctions, which can include
preventing him from traveling abroad, confiscating his driver’s
license, and even imprisonment.
If the court decides to impose sanctions, there must be a follow- up
hearing within 90 days to see if the divorce has been granted – and
if not, to decide whether or not to apply more stringent sanctions.
If the first hearing does not result in sanctions, there must be a
new hearing within 45 days to reexamine whether to level sanctions.
The rabbinical court will have to hold continual hearings on the case
according to this timetable until the man gives the get.
According to Jewish law, a divorce can only take effect if a husband
willingly gives his wife a get. If he refuses, she cannot remarry,
and any children she has with another man are considered mamzerim –
unable to marry Jews who do not also fall within the narrow
parameters of that status.
If a man gives a get under duress, it is invalid according to Jewish
law, and children of a woman who remarries under such circumstances
are considered mamzerim.
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), one of the primary sponsors of the law,
called it a “real revolution that will bring about a significant
reduction in the phenomenon of men refusing to give their wives a
bill of divorce.”
According to Schneller, the law means that for the first time, the
rabbinical courts will have to scrutinize and follow every case of a
man refusing to give his wife a divorce until he finally does so.
Some women’s rights groups, however, have opposed the bill, arguing
that the new law actually damages women’s rights.
According to these groups, the law as it stood stipulated that a
rabbinical court should hold a hearing to impose sanctions within 30
days of the ruling that the husband must give a divorce. However, the
rabbinical courts interpreted the law to mean that it was within
their discretion to decide whether to hold such a hearing, and to do
so after – not within – 30 days.
Bat-Sheva Sherman-Shani, director of the Yad L’Isha women’s rights
group, said that the new law effectively tripled the time it would
take for the court to convene a hearing. She added that the repeated
hearings the new law requires would actually weaken the position of
these “chained women” because it would make them more circumspect
about employing alternative methods of pressure on their husbands,
for fear that the court would penalize them for circumventing its
As a result, she said, they would be more likely to accede at least
to some of the husbands’ demands in return for the divorce.
Schneller, however, denied that the law would have any such effect.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post, he argued that the original law
indeed stipulated that a hearing must be held after, not within, 30
days – essentially an unlimited period.
As such, he said, even the rabbinical court hearings on imposing
sanctions were rare, let alone the actual implementation of those
More importantly, he asserted, the new law requires the husband to
give a get within 45 days of the initial ruling, whereas no such
requirement existed beforehand.
“The uniqueness and importance of this law is that the court can’t
abandon the case until a get is given,” he said.
Batya Kehana Dror, the director of Mavoi Satum – a divorce reform
advocacy group that partnered with Schneller in devising the bill –
hailed the new law as “an important milestone in the struggle for
women’s rights in Israel and for advancing equality between the sexes
in matters of marriage and divorce. It will help reduce and even
prevent the ongoing abuse and blackmail used against women and put an
end to the red tape of the rabbinical courts regarding matters of
According to a new study by the Rackman Center, it takes an average
of 642 days for a woman to receive a get after proceedings are
initiated in a rabbinical court. Between 1995 and 2007, 12.5% of the
cases took more than four years to produce a get, and 28.4% took at
least two years.
In many cases, the husband withholds the get in order to leverage
more favorable terms in the divorce settlement.
According to Mavoi Satum, there are thousands of women in the country
whose husbands continue to deny them a divorce. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 03/21/12)
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