Israeli politician calls for stricter divorce penalties

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A high profile Israeli politician has launched a bill that would mandate stricter penalties for husbands who refuse to divorce their wives.

Israel follows traditional rabbinical law in divorce. Divorce cannot take place unless the husband presents the wife with a get, a document certifying the divorce. If he refuses to do so, she is left in legal limbo. However a range of penalties, including ostracism and even imprisonment, are available to the rabbinical courts if husbands do refuse.

Shuli Mualem is a Member of  Israeli Parliament the Knesset (MK) for orthodox Zionist party the Jewish Home (HaBayit HaYehudi). Drafted with help from social welfare organisation Emunah, the new bill would deprived husbands who have been imprisoned for get refusal of certain religious rights – for example, attending Torah classes or access to scripture.

The bill, aimed specifically at men, received its first reading in the Knesset earlier this week. Mualem told the house:

“A person who chooses to live according to Jewish law cannot decide on the parts he accepts and those he rejects. Judaism encompasses the fundamental principle of ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’.”

However, in a later interview news website Arutz Sheva pressed MK Mualem on the issue of female objectors to divorce – i.e. women who receive to receive the get presented by their husbands. It pointed to statistics recently published by the Rabbinical Court that suggest there are actually more female objectors than male ones. However such women apparently receive more lenient treatment, are not subject to prison sentences and can still receive spousal maintenance.

MK Mualem declined to comment on the issue. According to Arutz Sheva, both the Justice Ministry and the State Prosecutors also declined to comment on whether or not plans to criminalise divorce refusal would also apply to women who refuse divorce.

Image by Edmund Gall via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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