divorce in israel

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    ABC Online

    AM - Israeli women push for divorce law change

    [This is the print version of story http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2004/s1204406.htm]

    AM - Wednesday, 22 September , 2004 08:23:00
    Reporter: Mark Willacy

    TONY EASTLEY: In Israel, women's rights groups are calling for a change in the country's divorce laws, saying the current system is more on a par with that of Saudi Arabia or Iran.

    Under Israeli law, a woman cannot get a divorce unless her husband consents, and even if he's abusive or living with another woman the wife may not be released from the marriage.

    And there have been cases in which husbands only agree to a divorce after their wives pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, or after they hand over the children.

    Middle East Correspondent Mark Willacy reports from Jerusalem.

    MARK WILLACY: For five years Sari Diskind was denied a divorce by her husband, a man she says cheated on her and who abandoned their four children.

    SARI DISKIND: My husband, he went, he wasn't at home. He didn't pay for the children, he went outside with girls and nobody tell him hey, stop, you can't do that.

    MARK WILLACY: So your husband was seeing other women, he wasn't paying for the children, he wasn't coming home?

    SARI DISKIND: This is the problem, it wasn't easy, it really wasn't easy to continue within the life.

    MARK WILLACY: Eventually Sari Diskind's husband granted her what's called a "get" or a bill of divorce.

    But he only did it after his 34-year-old wife began screaming at the judges of the Rabbinical Court, the authority in all matters of divorce.

    (sound of yelling woman)

    Here the mother of a young woman refused a divorce by her husband vents her frustration in the Rabbinical Court.

    "Where is justice?" she yells, "we need justice on both sides".

    RE'UT GIAT: Jewish law has lots of wonderful things to tell all the other systems of law in all over the world. But right now the situation is upside down.

    MARK WILLACY: Re'ut Giat is an advocate for women seeking a divorce in the Rabbinical Courts.

    She says many of the women she represents are married to ultra-Orthodox religious men who treat their wives like objects.

    RE'UT GIAT: They are mean people, they like power and to take and hold the woman in prison so this makes them feel good. So there are sick people.

    MARK WILLACY: There's no such thing as a civil marriage here in Israel, the Rabbinical Courts have the exclusive right to marry and divorce.

    And if a woman is to get a divorce she needs to obtain the consent of her husband in the form of a "get", or the bill of divorce.

    For women like Sari Diskind whose husbands have run off with others, the law only serves unfaithful men.

    SARI DISKIND: What's going on here? It's like in Iran!

    MARK WILLACY: Often women are only granted a "get" after they agree to their husband's demands.

    Advocate Re'ut Giat.

    RE'UT GIAT: For them to get the get they have to give up lots of things, their property, sometimes their children, sometimes – a lot of times – money, sometimes they have to pay money, okay? This is blackmail!

    MARK WILLACY: Outside the Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, women collect signatures on a petition calling for the divorce law to be reviewed.

    But for now the Government is content to leave the issue in the hands of the rabbis.

    This is Mark Willacy in Jerusalem for AM.
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