Legislation


MK Dr. Aliza Lavie

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Aliza Lavie and U.S Ambassador Dan Shapiro

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On wings of prayer
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To Be a Jewish Woman
By Lavie, A., & Cohen, T.
(Eds.). (2005).
Jerusalem: Kolech

 

 

   

Committee for the Status of Women and Gender Equality

A message from the Committee Chairperson. Dr. Aliza Lavie. MK:

A year after accepting the call to head the Committee for the Status of Women and Gender Equality- CSWGE, we have accomplished several major achievements, but there are still numerous issues which demand our attention and direct involvement.

Legislation can bring about profound social change and can even reshape existing social order, but very few laws can boast such far reaching results. However, it is noteworthy that amongst those few pieces of legislation which have influenced society are laws which have been prepared, promoted and passed with the backing and expertise of the CSWGE.

Our current status of transforming and creating groundbreaking changes in attitudes to gender equality are the result of the courageous acts of just a few women leaders who, less than a generation ago, began to pressure the establishment to create a temporary committee dealing with gender issues and which has ultimately progressed into one of the few permanent standing committees dealing with issues of gender bias and womens rights than in any parliament around the world.

Despite the fact that we have had some outstanding successes along the way, we cannot allow ourselves to remain complacent and we are fully aware of the challenges ahead.

Dr. Aliza Lavie, M.K.

Chair, Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality

Striving for Change

One such success, and a law which is constantly being honed to suit modern constraints and challenges, is the law on sexual harassment.

This law has led to a profound change of what had previously been socially accepted behavior for men and women and introduced our society to previously unfamiliar and ethical concepts that would have been inconceivable a mere 20 years ago.

Previous conceptions of demarcation, between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, were erased and rewritten in an entirely different context. Though the battle against this phenomenon is far from won and still requires vigilance and enlightened educational input on almost a daily basis. The tide has turned and women enjoy a level of perceived status and dignity that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.

Therefore the CSWGE continues to develop the law for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment, tirelessly examining possible amendments and ensuring that it stays in tune with the changing world of social and other media around us.

Our mission is to aid those who are weak, those for whom the tidings of gender equality are yet to reach their consciousness or the consciousness of their community, or for those who struggle to avail themselves of the opportunity to change their status.

The further we progress, the heavier the burden for those of our fellow women whom are left behind. We must never forget our main calling promoting the status of women who cannot promote their own.

About the CSWGE

The Committee for the Status of Women and Gender Equality CSWGE - was established as a special temporary committee in 1991, towards the end of the 12th Knessets term of office. Shortly after the election of the 13th Knesset, the committee was reestablished as a special committee once more, and gained permanent status towards the end of the 13th Knessets term.

Following the continuous efforts of female MKs, the Knesset plenum recognized that promoting the status of women required constant attention and involvement in order to stem inequality and bridge the gender gap. This was a concrete acknowledgement of the fact that women are still underrepresented in positions of power, suffer bigotry and discrimination in the labor market, and are exposed to violence and sexual harassment, both in the work place and in general.

According to the Knesset Rules of Procedure, the CSWGE is obligated to actively supporte efforts leading towards:

Promoting the status of women and equal representation, equal education, personal status and universally preventing discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation; diminishing economic disparity and discrimination in the labor market; eliminating violence against women.

During the tenure of the current Knesset, the title and remit of the CSWGE was extended to include the words gender equality in order to reflect still more accurately, the vicissitudes and evolution that have taken place in Israeli society in recent decades as well as existing obstacles and impediments that women face.

In addition to such momentous laws, as the Law for Prevention of Sexual Harassment, (a groundbreaking law completed and enacted in 1998 which continues to refine and modify an accurate ,up to date definition of sexual harassment and the means with which to address it.)there is in addition another example of legislation named the Equal Rights for Women Law" meant to establish practices that ensure full equality between men and women, prescribing affirmative action, promoting women and rendering adequate representation mandatory.

Significant amendments to existing laws added by the committee include extending paid parental leave by two weeks, on a par with the minimum parental leave accepted in the European Union. Further amendments to the Employment of Women Law include extending the period during which the employment of a woman may not be terminated after her return from parental leave; doubling the fine for terminating an employee on her parental leave or during pregnancy without special permission and this in turn resulted in an increase in the length of imprisonment deemed appropriate for this offence as well as extending the statute of limitations on it from one year to five.

In addition, the committee granted full legal status to the temporary provision regarding a mans right to take paid parental leave instead of his spouse.

Activities of the CSWGE revolve around the following issues:

  • elimination of violence against women,

  • adequate representation for women in politics on the national and the municipal levels,

  • equal pay

  • and equal opportunities for women in the labor market,

  • women from ethnic minorities,

  • womens health,

  • women in the armed forces and public services,

  • promoting science and technology studies among adolescent girls

  • the status of women in Rabbinical courts,

  • the struggle against sexual harassment.

In addition, and in order to further raise awareness in the public and legislative sphere, the CSWGE annually honors and marks International Womens Day as well as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women by conducting special sessions open to the general public, debates in various Knesset committees and a discussion in the Knesset plenum.

CSWGE Achievements since the induction of the 19th Knesset in 2013

Legislation

The CSWGE successfully added three amendments to the law for Prevention of Sexual Harassment:

  • increasing the compensation without proof of damage from fifty thousand shekel ( $15,000) to a hundred and twenty thousand shekel( $35,000);

  • Including public servants and representatives as prospective individuals open to exploitation of authority and discipline in labor relations.

  • A revolutionary amendment addressing the relatively new phenomenon of publishing photographs, video or audio recordings of a sexual nature without the consent of the persons recorded on any of the new social media with the maximum penalty set for this offense being set at five years' imprisonment.

As part of the struggle for equal pay and the recognition that obtaining accurate information on the wages is the key to disparity between the sexes, the committee amended the Male and Female Workers Equal Pay Law requiring all public bodies employing more than one hundred employees to submit reports or publish data on employee wages and positions of authority, and to do so according to gender. In addition, the list of the public bodies required to submit such data has been extended to include government-owned corporations, thereby ensuring complete transparency and accountability.

CSWGE and the implémentation of existing legislation

The committee expedited the issue of regulations for the implementation of the 2008 law encouraging the advancement and integration of women at work and the adaptation of workplaces for women.

The purpose of the law was to induce employers to integrate and promote women in the workplace and to adapt the working environment to suit the needs of working families. According to the law, financial incentives and awards would be provided to those employers who promoted these issues.

In 2014, recipients were selected and awards distributed for the first time to those who had made significant attempts to provide adequate childcare facilities, flexi time or job sharing etc. all with the principle of empowering womens employment.

The law advocating the receipt of an adjustment grant to victims of domestic abuse on leaving state shelters was enacted by the previous Knesset. However, having understood during a visit to the shelter that the implementation of the law is delayed owing to bureaucratic reasons, the committee addressed this issue. We are happy to report that, according to recent information, women now receive the grant they are entitled to.

The CSWGE established a subcommittee on Trafficking in Women and Prostitution during the term of the 19th Knesset. However, while trafficking in women decreased, owing in large to successful actions of the committee and a committed police force, conversely, the number of Israeli women in the sex industry grew and this issue was therefore delegated to the CSWGE subcommittee.

The subcommittee supervises government programs aiding women who seek to leave prostitution by promoting educational programs and facilitating the rehabilitation of people previously employed in the sex industry.

A shelter for the victims of human trafficking

On receiving a report about the overcrowding of an existing shelter for victims of human trafficking , the committee appealed to the Minister of Welfare and Social Services and obtained funding for the establishment of a new shelter, designed to help eighteen more individuals.

Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment

The CSWGE addressed the representation of sexual content in the media and the inclusion of sex offenders in reality shows and as a result of discussions held by the committee, together with an external team of leading media organizations and Rape Crisis Centers, the resulting team has prepared an ethical code to monitor and manage sexually violent content in the media.

The CSWGE concentrates efforts on the struggle against sexual harassment both in the legislative sphere and in the labor market. The committee receives mandatory reports from various institutions, such as the civil service, the army, national service and academic establishments regarding the means with which they address the issue.

Training professionals

With the relevant reports of all types of infringements to the directives set up by the CSWGE in hand, the committee monitors the different measures adopted by institutions to deal with violence and sexual assaults, or any other type of misdemeanor.

Standing guard, maintaining vigilance, quick response and demand for action are all part of the committees daily routine.

For example, the committee insisted that judges be educated concerning sexual harassment and violence against women following a shameful remark from a judge, which was exposed by an advocacy journalist and published in the national press. The Minister of Justice acknowledged the committees immediate call to take decisive steps following the incident.

Gender and Judaism

As a democratic secular state which is not separated from religious practice in marriage and divorce, the CSWGE seeks to find a placatory path through this quagmire and is deeply involved in various fields related to this domain, such as conversion to Judaism, rights of woman in marriage or divorce, and the thorny issue of women who may not be able to remarry due to their husbands refusal to divorce them as prescribed in Orthodox Jewish marriage laws.

There is also the added issue of pluralism in Judaism and the integration of women into Rabbinical courts as fully qualified Rabbinical experts.

Childcare

The previous Knesset ensured funding for building additional daycare facilities, increasing the number of children in the daycare system and increasing subsidies for parents sending their children to daycare facilities. Owing to bureaucratic constraints these subsidies do not always find their way to the facilities allotted to receive them.

During the term of the current Knesset, the committee began to examine the means to remove the said obstacles and ensure the full utilization of the allotted budget and an increase in the number of children and facilities for daycare available to young mothers and thereby ensure fuller integration of working women into full time employment.

Teenage girls

The CSWGE is involved in multiple activities concerning adolescent girls. Addressing the unique and sensitive issues of adolescent girls requires a specialized approach whereby young girls are encouraged to take up life sciences and mathematics. Fostering a unique approach to encourage and enable girls to achieve optimal integration in the (Israel Defence Forces ) IDF and in National Service which in Israeli society tend to be the natural conduits towards leadership roles.

The CSWGE encourages debate on the supposed ideals of beauty and role-models dictated by society and the media, as well as the transition between girlhood and womanhood and the identity of those role models closest to adolescent girls during this transition. Sexual exploitation of minors and the health of adolescent girls are likewise among the chief concerns of the committee.

Health

Until recently, primary research into medical and health issues tended to center on male respondents and there had been a disparity in results in medical research leading to women neglecting their health owing to a lack of empirical data showing the differences between genders for similar diseases ( heart attacks for example).

The last few years has seen an awakening of the awareness of greater attention to female based health issues and this is one of the issues which the CSWGE has also undertaken to bring to the fore. With that in mind the committee holds regular meetings with various health organizations to stimulate awareness of the distinctive needs of women in public healthcare and to increase the awareness of womens health and their responsibilities towards themselves.

Media and Gender

The status of a woman is largely affected by her perception of herself and the way she is perceived by those around her. Where we may have previously believed that prejudice and traditional perceptions are the greatest opponents to promoting the status of women, we have also learned that commercial interests convey incipient messages from every passing billboard and through countless posts in social media. The exploitation of the female body for profit is not limited to overt methods but alas through more subtle and less aggressive messages conveyed everywhere we look. Women are portrayed in a prescribed and predictable manner guaranteed to propel stereotypical images of women and girls into all spheres of life and with a resultant detrimental effect. The world view of an entire generation is shaped through the images they see daily on screens of various sizes.

 
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