Faced by growing public outrage over high murder rates of women, and with police investigating four incidents that took place in the last week alone, government ministers were set to debate Sunday an initiative to monitor suspected abusive spouses by forcing them to wear electronic tracking tags.
The bill, which was to be voted on in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, would allow courts to order the tags placed on a suspect after a complaint of domestic violence has been lodged against them, even without a full trial and conviction.
Advocates say that the introduction of tags would allow authorities to more effectively monitor suspects in real time and prevent them from approaching to the women who have made complaints.
The author of the bill, MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), said the proposal would place restrictions on abusive spouses as opposed to the current system of safehouses, which offers women the option of police protection in a secure location but forces them to leave their homes.
“There is no reason that the victim of violence should be the one to lock herself away and cut off her regular life when there are technological solutions that could be helpful,” Lavie said in a statement Thursday. “This is a dramatic and necessary step toward protecting women who have experienced the hell of violence in the family and find themselves in ongoing danger.”
Lavie said the bill is expected to gain the support of the committee, as it is being championed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Speaking ahead of the committee debate, Erdan said the bill “challenged the current paradigm” of prevention of spousal violence.
“Instead of the threatened woman living under the fear of her violent spouse, the spouse would be the one under constant surveillance that will prevent him for getting near and being able to attack, threaten or abuse the victim,” he said. “This is one move among many that I am advancing in the struggle against violence on women.”
According to police statistics, 128 women have been killed by their spouses in Israel since 2011. A 2016 study conducted by the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found some 40 percent of Israeli women have suffered physical, psychological or verbal violence from their partners.
On Saturday night, prompted by four suspected murders of women in the past week, some 200 people protested what they described as a weak police response to the high rates of violence. Many held photos of 17-year old Henriette Kara, found dead on Tuesday in the central city of Ramle with multiple stab wounds to her body. Police suspect family members were involved in her death.
Kara’s death was the latest in a string of murders of Arab Israeli women, many of which were believed to have been carried out by relatives.
According to activists, more than half of the women murdered in domestic violence-related killings are Arab women, despite the fact that Arabs make up less than 20% of the overall population. Last year alone, 16 Israeli Arab women were murdered.
Half of those women are killed in Arab neighborhoods of Ramle and Lod, cities just outside of Tel Aviv where several large clans involved in organized crime have made weapons easily accessible and allowed violence, particularly toward women, to go unchecked for years.
A police spokesperson told The Times of Israel last week that “every day there are murders” in the Arab Israeli community but that there was not enough public interest to broadcast each one.
The killings bear some similarities to the so-called “honor killings” elsewhere in the Muslim world, where women are murdered by relatives who accuse them of tarnishing the family name through perceived sexual indiscretions. But activists in Israel reject such comparisons, saying the vast majority of the killings are the result of rampant spousal abuse that has been ignored by police in a landscape rife with drugs, crime and poverty.