MK voted against tagging domestic abusers, rape kit storage

Likud’s May Golan set to become minister for advancement of women’s status

In new position, lawmaker will be tasked with eradicating violence against women, promoting gender equality, fighting sexual harassment and preventing the exclusion of women

MK May Golan during a discussion and a vote on the "Citizenship Law" at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK May Golan during a discussion and a vote on the "Citizenship Law" at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

May Golan is set to be appointed minister for the advancement of women’s status on Sunday, the first to fill the newly established position.

The establishment of the ministry drew praise from women’s groups, despite Golan’s record of voting against legislation that could improve women’s safety.

Golan, a Likud party Knesset member, was previously designated a minister without portfolio in the Prime Minister’s Office. In her new position, she will be tasked with eradicating violence against women, promoting gender equality, fighting sexual harassment and preventing the exclusion of women.

The newly appointed minister is part of Israel’s most right-wing, religious government in history, which counts just six women in the 32-member cabinet. The previous government of 27 ministers had nine women.

The new ministry will be established through a transfer of the relevant powers from the Social Equality Ministry, headed by MK Amichai Chikli.

However, Golan has been criticized for prioritizing party loyalty over supporting legislation that advances women’s rights.

Last month, Golan voted against a bill that would have mandated an electronic monitoring system to track domestic abusers. Experts and proponents of the legislation say the tracking would save lives.

MK May Golan at a House Committee meeting in the Knesset, on April 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After blocking the legislation, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said the electronic tagging bill needed to go further in balancing men’s rights against the needs of women in potential danger.

In July 2021, Golan opposed a bill that would have permitted the storage of forensic samples taken from victims of sexual crimes for an unrestricted time. That bill was designed to help victims in producing evidence that could be used in trials.

Women’s advocacy groups expressed hope that Golan would use the newly established ministry to make a real difference, highlighting the number of women murdered in recent weeks.

“The new minister has a lot of work ahead of her,”  said Hadas Daniely Yalin, CEO of the Israel Women’s Network.

“The dramatic increase in the number of women murdered since the beginning of the year in Israel, alongside legislative initiatives promoted by the government and threatening women’s rights in Israel, are just some of the issues on her agenda,” she said, according to the Ynet news site.

Israeli women hold fake coffins symbolizing the murders of women killed as part of a nationwide strike protesting violence against women, Tel Aviv, December 4, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Women’s International Zionist Organization congratulated Golan, while calling on her to reintroduce the electronic monitoring bill now that she has “the keys in her hands.”

“We hope that the minister will lead a gender-sensitive vision and raise the silenced voice of 51 percent of the population in these turbulent times,” the organization said.

Moran Zer Katzenstein, from the Building an Alternative women’s group, said that Israeli women “are watching [Golan] with hope.”

“A government ministry will finally be established that will deal with the rights of 51% of the population in Israel. We congratulate minister May Golan on her pioneering role and wish her great success,” she said.

Zer Katzenstein’s organization has played a high-profile role in recent protests against the government’s contentious judicial overhaul, saying the coalition’s actions will leave minorities and women unprotected.

File: Protesters supporting women’s rights dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale” TV series attend a protest against the government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Activists have long complained that not enough is done to prevent violence against women in Israel, particularly in cases known to the authorities.

According to the Israel Observatory on Femicide, in 2022, 24 women were “murdered because they were women,” a 50 percent rise over the 16 such murders recorded in 2021. Half of those murders were in the Arab community, which makes up just 21% of the population.

A report released in November by the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry showed that between January and October of 2022, the ministry received 5,712 complaints of domestic violence — a 3.6% increase over the previous year.

While data is scarce on false domestic violence accusations, researchers around the world agree that the number of actual assaults far outweighs the number of false claims.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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