In advance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Sunday, WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) reported that 19 women in Israel were murdered by family members over the past year, representing a 26 percent decline from the previous year.

The number of appeals to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel rose 16% over the same period.

Among the 19 women killed in the past year, 13 belonged to minority populations: six were Ethiopian immigrants, four were Arab women, one was an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, one was a foreign worker from the Philippines and one was an illegal migrant from Eritrea.

According to the WIZO report, approximately 10,600 women requested police protection from violent husbands in 2011. Some 18,000 women appealed to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in the first half of 2012 alone, 65% of which involved sexual assault against minors.

As part of Israel’s observance of the international day, a conference organized by WIZO on Sunday discussed the implementation of a law to prevent domestic violence and asked whether the police protection requested by women victimized by family violence does in fact serve them adequately.

In a statement, WIZO Israel chairwoman Gila Oshrat said that police protection orders are life-saving tools for women, they are difficult  to implement and enforce, and the “lack of enforcement and deterrence puts women at an increasing risk with their violent spouses.”

The annual WIZO report indicated that some 89% of cases reported to the rape crisis centers involved women being attacked by men that they knew. – 40% by family members, 26% by friends or acquaintances and 14% in places of employment and in the military.

On 20 % of complainants to rape crisis centers also lodged complaints to the police, according to the report.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch called it “intolerable” that so few cases of violence against women are reported to the police. The issue must be given a very high priority, Aharonovitch said. “Civilized society must relate to this the phenomenon as despicable and condemn it.”

Aharonovitch, speaking at the WIZO conference, said that he intends to establish a unit within his ministry that will specifically battle violence against women in Israel immediately after the upcoming elections on January 22.