Israeli woman denied divorce goes on hunger strike

family law

An Israeli woman whose husband has denied her a divorce for 17 years is now on a hunger strike outside the nation’s parliament.

In Israel, divorce can only occur when both the husband and wife consent to it. However, when one spouse refuses to grant a divorce, they can be punished by the Rabbinical Court. In some circumstances, these punishments can include jail time.

That is exactly what happened to this woman’s husband, who was jailed 16 years ago for his refusal. Remarkably, he has yet to agree to a divorce and is still in prison today. As a result, his now 53 year-old wife remains an agunah. Literally translated as “chained” or “anchored”, this term refers to a Jewish woman who cannot get away from her marriage. On Wednesday the woman began a hunger strike outside of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, where she hopes to attract public attention to her situation.

Members of the Knesset (MK) have recently been debating a bill which, if enacted, would allow the government to annul the marriages of those who have been refused a divorce for more than a year. However it is unlikely to become law as it has been met with opposition from MKs in both the governing coalition and major religious parties. This week, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided to postpone any discussion of the bill for another three months.

Speaking to the media, the woman claimed that she had “waited 17 years, that’s long enough”. She said she would “like the religious and ultra-Orthodox MKs to come here and explain to me why they oppose this law”, adding:

“This law doesn’t undermine the Rabbinate, because the Rabbinical court itself said the man must grant me a divorce.”

Earlier this year, a prominent orthodox MK proposed a bill which would introduce stricter punishments for husbands who refuse to divorce their wives. She suggested that such men should lose some of their religious rights and insisted that anyone “who chooses to live according to Jewish law cannot decide on the parts he accepts and those he rejects”.

Photo of the Knesset by israeltourism via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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1 comment

drmanhattan - May 8, 2017 at 6:11pm

This is why Religion causes so many problems for the Human race.

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