Rab­bis con­di­tion divorce on nix­ing rape com­plaint

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JEREMY SHARON

The Jerusalem Rab­bini­cal Court ar­ranged a divorce that in­cluded a con­di­tion say­ing the wife would not file a com­plaint with the po­lice re­gard­ing “events of the past,” a ref­er­ence to her claims that her hus­band raped and beat her.

The Mavoi Sa­tum divorce-rights or­ga­ni­za­tion now rep­re­sent­ing the woman has filed a com­plaint with the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral’s Of­fice ask­ing it to open an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the pre­sid­ing rab­bini­cal judges for ex­tor­tion and in­ter­fer­ence with in­ves­tiga­tive pro­ce­dures.

The cou­ple in ques­tion di­vorced in Fe­bru­ary 2016. Dur­ing the divorce process, the wife al­leged that her hus­band was vi­o­lent to­ward her and their chil­dren and that he had raped her.

Her hus­band de­nied her al­le­ga­tions and the rab­bini­cal court said there was not enough ev­i­dence to sup­port her claims.

How­ever, the hus­band in­sisted as part of the divorce agree­ment

that the wife agree to not file a com­plaint with the po­lice about the claims, re­ferred to in the court doc­u­ment as “events of the past.”

The doc­u­ment also re­quired the woman to agree to trans­fer the divorce set­tle­ment file from the fam­ily court where it was be­ing con­ducted to the rab­bini­cal court.

The woman has said she con­sented to sign the agree­ment after be­ing pres­sured to do so by the pre­sid­ing rab­bini­cal judges, Rab­bis Yosef Goldberg, David Bar­dugo and Mordechai Ral­bag, out of a fear that if she did not agree she would be de­nied a divorce by her hus­band.

Jewish law re­quires that for a divorce to be valid, the hus­band must agree to give the divorce and the wife must ac­cept it.

There are cur­rently thou­sands of cases of divorce re­fusal, in many of which the women have been de­nied a divorce for years.

Mavoi Sa­tum took up the woman’s case and after see­ing the agree­ment, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s di­rec­tor, at­tor­ney Batya Ke­hana-Dror, said it was il­le­gal and filed a com­plaint with the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral’s Of­fice to in­ves­ti­gate the rab­bini­cal judges for their con­duct.

“The rab­bini­cal court not only de­nied the right of the woman to com­plain to the po­lice and en­cour­aged her to con­ceal in­for­ma­tion which she is ob­li­gated to pro­vide, but also es­tab­lished it within an of­fi­cial court rul­ing.

It seem­ingly en­cour­aged and ap­proved in­ter­fer­ing with in­ves­tiga­tive pro­ce­dures and ex­tor­tion,” said Ke­hana-Dror.

“This rul­ing has se­vere con­se­quences, in­clud­ing en­cour­ag­ing vi­o­lence in the fam­ily, when crim­i­nal hus­bands know that the rab­bini­cal court can si­lence a woman and de­mand that they not file com­plaints as a con­di­tion of divorce.”

The Rab­bini­cal Courts Ad­min­is­tra­tion said in re­sponse that well-qual­i­fied lawyers, in­clud­ing the woman’s, had drawn up the agree­ment and that the con­tent of the agree­ment had been agreed to by both the hus­band and wife.

“Ev­i­dence sup­port­ing the claims of rape and vi­o­lence was not pro­vided to the rab­bini­cal judge [Goldberg], but he be­lieved that there was a se­vere chance that the woman could be chained [re­fused a divorce].

There­fore, after en­sur­ing that the woman will­ingly agreed to the con­tent of the agree­ment and that she un­der­stood the mean­ing of the agree­ment and its con­tents, he thought it bet­ter to ap­prove the agree­ment without in­ter­fer­ing in the is­sue of a po­lice com­plaint, than to put the woman in dan­ger of be­ing re­fused a divorce.”

The rab­bini­cal court’s re­sponse also took aim at Ke­hana-Dror, say­ing the case had only been “raised from the depths” be­cause of her “strug­gle against the rab­bini­cal courts.” •

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