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Knesset advances bills to crack down on violence against women

In rare moment of unity, coalition convenes ministerial committee to send two pieces of legislation to parliament; third bill on rehab for abuse felons held up by cost concerns

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A woman light candles in memory of women murdered in domestic violence, at a street memorial on Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv, ahead of International Day of Violence Against Women. November 24, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
A woman light candles in memory of women murdered in domestic violence, at a street memorial on Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv, ahead of International Day of Violence Against Women. November 24, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The Knesset gave an initial go-ahead to two bills aimed at providing support for victims of domestic violence Wednesday, as the world marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

One bill would protect women living in shelters from losing their jobs, and the other would remove guardianship rights for fathers convicted of domestic homicide. They both passed a preliminary reading, but must still go through three more readings and committee markup before becoming law.

The parliament vote came after the Ministerial Committee for Legislation overcame coalition tensions to convene and approve the bills. The panel, which determines whether the government will back legislative measures, had been prevented from meeting by increasingly frayed ties between the Likud and Blue and White parties, which have threatened to bring down the government.

Committee chairman Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn tweeted, “We all have a duty to do everything to assist victims of violence and prevent the next murder. This is how to work together for the benefit of the public.”

The bill to protect the employment of women who are living in shelters, proposed by MKs Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Karine Elharar (Yesh Atid), passed its preliminary reading 44-0.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg speaks at a demonstration outside the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 23, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Two versions of the other bill, proposed by MK Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) and Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu), would cancel guardianship rights over minors for a parent convicted of murdering the other parent, or of murdering a minor. The bills passed with 55 votes and 46 votes in favor, respectively, and no objections.

A third bill brought to the ministerial committee would require prisoners convicted of domestic violence to undergo a rehabilitation program before being released. The bill, proposed by MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), was delayed by the committee amid objections from the Finance Ministry over the cost of running the programs.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn seen during a visit at the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The votes came as the UN marked International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which falls every year on November 25.

Twenty women have been murdered in Israel by their spouses or significant others since the beginning of the year, with the latest victim killed last week by her ex-husband.

Thirteen Israeli women were murdered in 2019 by someone known to them. In 2018, 25 women were murdered in such incidents, the highest number in years. Many of those women filed police complaints prior to their deaths out of concern for their safety.

MK Karine Elharar chairs a meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee on binary options fraud, January 2, 2017 (Luke Tress / Times of Israel)

A national plan to fight domestic violence was approved in 2017 by the Knesset but has since been abandoned, waiting for funding. Activists say most of the approved NIS 250 million ($71 million) has not yet been transferred to relevant authorities.

Police and social services organizations have also reported a major rise in domestic violence complaints since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

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