The legal age of marriage is now 18:
The Rackman Center joined women around the country in celebrating a historic day for the State of Israel.
On November 4, 2013 the Knesset approved a bill drafted by the Rackman Center which raised the minimum legal marriage age in Israel from 17 to 18.
This bill, brought before the Knesset by Gila Gamliel (Likud Beytenu), coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu), Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On and others, is the culmination of a three-year effort initiated by the Rackman Center. Prior to the passing of the new law, a special report prepared by the Center revealed that about 4,500 minors are married annually in Israel, 4,000 of whom are women. About a third of the married minors are Jewish, the rest mostly Muslim, and approximately 500 of them are under 16 years of age.
This new law is aimed to end child-marriage in Israel. If enforced properly, the law has the potential of preventing teenage girls from dropping out of school and harming their future by marrying at such a young age. These girls will now be obligated to wait one more year, during which they will have the chance to mature mentally and physically – before they face the responsibilities that are bound with the starting of a new family.
More importantly, the bill bans the family courts from approving marriage of minors under 16 in any circumstance and cancels pregnancy as a cause for approving marriage under 18. Also, based on the findings of the Rackman Center report regarding the major lack of enforcement, under the new law, all relevant government ministries will be required to report, annually, to a special Knesset committee about the measures that have been taken to enforce this law.
The existing law, was passed over 60 years ago and was not compatible with the social advancements and research developments that have occurred in Israel. The passing of the new law is a historical moment in the struggle for equality and women’s rights.
The Rackman Center is making significant progress and changing the future for our daughters and granddaughters. We thank you immensely for your continued support and look forward to updating you with news of further achievements.
This new law received a lot of attention in the media. Prof Ruth Halperin-Kaddari was invited to a radio interview, our Head of Legislation and Public Policy, Adv Adi Blutner was on a television interview on Channel 2 news as well as many other press articles on the topic.
Four Women Must Be Included in the Selection Committee for Rabbinical Judges :
We are thrilled to inform you that we passed the ‘Law of Rabbinical Judges’ in June 2013 which insures that women are part of the selection committee for rabbinical judges. This is an important change because the identity of rabbinical judges plays a crucial role in the policy and case-outcomes in the rabbinical courts. By law in Israel marriage and divorce are religious ceremonies and must go through the rabbinical courts. Considering the fact that half of the citizens filing for marriage and divorce are women it was problematic that women were completely misrepresented in these courts. Therefore it was important to ensure the effective involvement and influence of women in the process of selecting the decision makers (the rabbinical judges) of this system. Our aim was to increase women’s representation by law. As a result, the High Court responded with an injunction order that stopped the process of selecting new rabbinical judges until women’s representation was ensured. The Knesset then passed an amendment drafted by ICAR. According to the new law, at least 4 out of 11 members of the selection committee have to be women. Following the passing of the important bill, The Rackman staff was addressed by MK Dr. Aliza Lavi who requested we draft two more “women’s equal representation” bills, one to ensure equal representation in the selection committee of Judges and one in the Jewish-religious city councils. The first had already been successfully passed and the second is in the legislation process.
Prof Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, Chairperson of The Rackman Center Reported to the Media:
‘We are so happy about the historical passing of this law with the backing of MKs Shuli Muallem, Aliza Lavie and Zahava Gal-on. The identity of the judges selected for the rabbinical courts affects the whole spirit of the ruling on marriage and divorce, and other issues, more sensitive, for both men and women. Therefore it is absolutely important that women take part in the nomination process, especially given that the judges themselves are still only men. The message that the Knesset left us with is loud and clear – put an end to the exclusion of women in the State of Israel! Giving women fair representation is a fundamental principle that the Knesset has given new meaning to. We are now calling to the Minister of Religious Affairs Naftali Bennett to remove the veto imposed by the faction of the law designed to ensure proper representation of women in the elections for chief rabbis, and end the exclusion of women from the committee that elects the chief rabbis. Our work continues but the fact that this law has been passed brings a promising future for women’s fairer representation.’
The Fight to Ensure Women’s Involvement in the Selection Committee of Israel’s Chief Rabbis
We are devoted to the elimination of the exclusion of women from the public-governmental arena and from influential positions in Israel, particularly in the religious public sphere. It is of great importance that women have equal say in the selection process of the new Chief Rabbis (Sephardi and Ashkenazi) of Israel , a process which takes place once every decade.
In order to achieve this we drafted a bill which ensures equal representation of women on the selection committee of the Chief Rabbis. We submitted the bill along with MK Ela’azar Stern. As the legislation process progressed, many political barriers arose and we decided to recruit a number of other women’s organizations to join in the struggle. We started a media campaign, which was meant to pressure the political parties involved (namely the Bayit HaYehudi party and its head – Naftali Bennet) to pass the bill. Our numerous media appearances, along with a strong Facebook campaign and a petition to the high court of justice requesting they stall the appointment of the new chief rabbis until women’s representation in the selection committee was ensured, eventually led, not to the passing of the law, but to the appointment of 15 women to the selection committee (instead of have one woman, which was the case beforehand). In 2014 we plan to continue working towards passing the law to ensure the equal representation of women for all elections of chief rabbis to come.
Retaining the Right to Social Housing for Women Who Are Agunot Or Have to Leave Their House Due to Violence or Being in the Divorce Process
This bill was submitted to the Knesset together with Yad L’Isha. Until earlier this year, a woman who chooses to leave her violent husband (and home) in order to protect themselves would risk losing their home because by law the home is given to whoever stays there with the children. Women who have escaped to battered women’s shelters found themselves returning to their homes despite the risk because they feared losing their homes. The same is the case for Agunot (women who are being refused a Get) who are at risk of losing everything due to this – even though they should still have a right to social housing. With the support of MK Ruhama Avraham a new bill was passed and the law ensures that these women retain the right to social housing. This will enable women to escape broken marriages without risking their future.
Women to Continue to Receive Child Support from Social Security in the Event that They Travel Abroad
Prior to the passing of a new bill, the law held that women who received child support from social security (due to the fact that their husband was not paying) would automatically lose a monthly payment for their child if they go on a trip abroad. This law included leaving the country for work related reasons even for 24 hours. We asserted that this law must be cancelled, however the Minister of Treasury rejected our efforts. We returned to the Knesset with a compromise that child support be provided as long as the mother’s travel is limited to 72 days abroad, and up to four different trips. With the support of MK Faina Kirschenbaum who worked greatly on this law, our bill was finally accepted. Finally women will be allowed sufficient time to travel if necessary and still receive their children’s right to child support.