UN Committee: Israel Must Allow Civil Marriage

Report on implementation of 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women says Israel lacks gender equality in matters of marriage and family relationships.

There is no meaningful equality in Israel between men and women when it comes to matters relating to marriage and family relationships, according to a new UN report.

The report was compiled by a panel of experts overseeing implementation of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The panel submitted its conclusions to Israeli authorities in February of this year.

Eran Wolkowski

The panel, which includes representatives from several countries, receives reports on gender issues every four years. These reports are based on each country's official statistics, as well as reports by non-governmental organizations, and interviews of state officials conducted by the panel members.

Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kadari, who heads Bar-Ilan University's Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women's Status, is a member of the panel. The Rackman Center is about to publish a guide to the international convention and the conclusions of the oversight committee that will include the recommendations made to the Israeli authorities.

"There's a huge gap between rights that are formally granted, and the lack of implementation and enforcement of the laws," said Halperin-Kadari.

Halperin-Kadari added that this was the first time that a UN committee had so clearly stated that Israel must allow civil marriage and do all it can to end the discrimination against women in family law.

The committee also stated that domestic violence and violence against women were still widespread in Israel. The panel also expressed concern over the scope of trafficking in women and the wide income gaps between men and women.

The report included a section on violence and harassment of women in the Palestinian-controlled areas, citing violence from Israeli soldiers, "non-state" elements, such as settlers, and the abuse they are subject to in their communities.

Halperin-Kadari said that this section of the report reflected a political bias common to UN reports.

"They relied on information from sources they would not have relied on in other countries, and expressed themselves more strongly," she said. "In part, the information was simply wrong."