Every day, hundreds of Jewish women in Israel are denied divorces because their husbands will not grant them a get, which is a Jewish bill of divorce.
According to Jewish law, when both people are Jewish, rabbinical courts handle marriages and divorces. Last Monday, Knesset authorities passed a law, which states, courts must track men who deny gets to their wives. In addition, both spouses must agree to a divorce before it is granted. Sometimes one of the two in the marriage abuses this stipulation, most often the men, according to Haaretz news.
The new law, which was sponsored by MKs Otniel Schneller (Kadima ) and Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi ), states that every divorce decree issued by a rabbinical court must include a date by which the get is to be arranged. If either spouse fails to provide the get by the specified date, the rabbinical court will now be required to reconvene and consider imposing sanctions.
Previous law allowed Jewish courts to impose sanctions on spouses who did not provide a get, by attaching a bank statement, denying them a drivers license, or sending them to jail. The new law imposes the burden on both the courts and the recalcitrant party, by having the courts revisit the case at regular intervals and even imposing sanctions if the reluctant spouse skips out on hearings. The spouse cannot appeal these sanctions.
Rabbinical courts have been hesitant to impose sanctions in part out of concern that if the sanctioned spouse ultimately grants the get, he may not be doing so of his own free will, which could invalidate the divorce. According to the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women's Status at Bar-Ilan University, sanctions have been imposed in only 1.5 percent of cases in which the law would have allowed it.
But the refusal to provide a get deprives women of the option of starting a new family, Schneller noted after the law was passed.
According to Batia Kahana Dror, director of Mavoi Satum, this is an “important milestone concerning women’s rights in Israel”.
A woman from Nahariya who has been denied a get for the past eight years told Haaretz that as the years passed, she lost faith in the judges' insistence that they have been doing everything possible to obtain a get from her husband. The court made no move to sanction her husband, she said, and meanwhile, he began living with another woman and had a child with her.
Many of the religious courts voiced objection to the new law, saying it interferes with the courts, but Schneller said it was developed with the cooperation of senior judges.