Ministry of Justice: Then came the judge who brought us back

Etti Aflallo, Calcalist, April 24th, 2019

Chief Executive Officer: Ami Palmor, State Prosecutor: Shai Nitzan, Legal Advisor: Avichai Mandelblit, Public Defender: Yoav Sapir.

The Ministry of Justice under the outgoing minister, Ayelet Shaked, has signed a series of important achievements in the field of gender equality – but the Israel Women’s Network expresses concern about the future: “Judges who worked intensively for appointments demonstrate conservative tendencies that primarily affect the rights of women,” says attorney Miriam Zalkind. “These trends are of great concern to us.”

Shaked’s time was characterized by many upheavals in the judicial system. Shaked focused many of her efforts, overtly, on changing the face of the system and especially on changing the character of the Supreme Court to a more conservative direction. During her tenure, six new judges were appointed to the Supreme Court and another 300 to other courts (representing nearly 1/3 of the system, compared to 146 judges appointed during Tzipi Livni’s term). Many of these judges have worldviews that are incompatible with the promotion of gender equality, according to Salkind. “An example of this can be found in the rulings of two of Shaked’s most prominent appointees, Supreme Court judges Alex Stein and David Mintz, who recently approved a Rabbinical Court ruling that a woman’s infidelity was a justified cause for denying her share in the couple’s home. These judicial appointments by Shaked could critically harm significant historical gender achievements and will lead to a deepening of inequality and discrimination against women among the Israeli population.”

Representation of women in the Supreme Court has been lacking even during the previous government: in the Magistrate’s Court, it is approximately 50%, in district courts it stands at 44%, and in the Supreme Court at 27%.

At the same time, during Shaked’s tenure in the ministry, there was impressive momentum in the appointment of women to judicial positions. For the first time, two women of Ethiopian descent were appointed to serve as judges (Adv. Adenko Sabhat-Haimovitz, Magistrate of the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court, and attorney Esther Taffeta-Gardi, a judge of the Traffic Court in Acre). Advocate Hana Hatib became the first Aab female judge in Israel, and Attorney Suhian al-Kassem, who established the first Arab center in Israel for the treatment of sexual assault victims, was appointed as a judge at the Regional Labor Court in Haifa; the first Druze judge in Israel.

A weak point in the Ministry’s activity is the amendment of laws relating to victims of sexual violence or harassment. The Law for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and the limitation of obsolescence in sexual offenses were not examined, despite the declaration of the establishment of a committee on the matter. At the same time, the Israel Women’s Network (IWN) recommends an amendment to the Rights of Victims of Crime Law, which will include ensuring the rehabilitation and assistance of victims of sexual violence.

The issues of marriage and divorce in Israel also remain problematic for women, and the absence of the option of civil marriage gives excessive powers to the rabbinical courts, which systematically discriminate against women. The IWN recommends curbing the “race for power” between the rabbinical courts, which makes it difficult for equitable divorce.

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