Protesters rally at rabbinical courts over coalition moves that damage women’s rights

Women protest outside the rabbinate in Rehovot, July 1, 2023 (Nevet Kahana)
Women protest outside the rabbinate in Rehovot, July 1, 2023 (Nevet Kahana)

Hundreds of protesters rally outside the rabbinical courts in Tel Aviv and Rehovot, protesting a number of moves by the hardline coalition and its supporters that they say damage women’s rights.

A number of protesters from the Building an Alternative women’s protest group try to enter the building.

This week, Religious Services Minister Michael Malkieli submitted a bill that aims to give rabbinical courts discretion over child support, overriding a 2019 Supreme Court ruling.

Opponents say it is an attempt to compromise women’s rights, which they said would be jeopardized in the rabbinical court because halacha, Jewish law, favors men.

The Netanyahu government has been repeatedly criticized for its policies toward women, including for the low number of women in leadership positions in the coalition.

Last week the coalition advanced a bill to reorganize the official national authority for advancing gender equality. Critics say the move will deprive the authority of its professional independence and instead subject it to the whims of politicians.

In addition, a new civil service directive has scrapped the practice of using masculine-feminine suffixes when publishing job tenders and ordered that they use only the masculine form.

Hebrew nouns are gendered, with the word changing form to indicate whether it is masculine or feminine. When addressing mixed-gender groups, usage traditionally defaults to the masculine form. To boost gender equality, many have taken to including both the masculine and feminine form of the word, using a slash mark to include both.

The coalition deal between Religious Zionism and Likud included an agreement that Israel will not sign onto the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty intended to battle violence against women.

A number of pieces of legislation were shelved amid public outcry, including a bill that would have made it a criminal offense to dress or pray “immodestly” at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

Minister for the Advancement of Women May Golan has been criticized for prioritizing coalition loyalty over supporting legislation that protects women and advances their rights.

In March, she 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.

The progress of the bill was dramatically slowed when far-right Internal Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said the legislation needed to be more balanced to protect the rights of the accused.

The ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition do not permit women to stand as lawmakers.

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