What can we learn from the fact that the Knesset member who did the most to promote women's rights was a man - Gideon Sa'ar (Likud), former chairman of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women? Sa'ar was responsible for 12 of the 27 gender equality laws passed by the 17th Knesset. Tied for number two and trailing far behind were MKs Amira Dotan (Kadima) and Orit Noked (Labor), with three laws each.
The deputy chairperson of the Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women in recent years, MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), led in sponsoring gender-equality legislation, with 54 bills, however only one of these was approved by the Knesset plenum in second and third readings. We could, of course, learn that Sa'ar was an excellent, and above all very effective, MK.
But we could also ask whether it might be easier for a man than for a woman to pass pro-women laws?
The above data is from a report released yesterday by the Israel Women's Network.
At first glance, the organization would seem to have reason to be satisfied. No less than 12 percent of the private members' bills approved on second and third readings were intended to promote women's rights, but the report's author, Tal Tamir, nevertheless said that women's issues are not given sufficient attention in the Knesset.
The laws that were passed include one sponsored by Sa'ar and MK Shelly Yachimovich allowing the extension of maternity leave by two years and a bill passed by Dotan requiring the Central Bureau of Statistics to collect data by gender. MK Michael Melchior (Labor) and other MKs sponsored and passed a law permitting the division of marital property prior to the issuing of a get, the Jewish religious divorce decree, thus reducing the husband's power to apply economic pressure on the wife in divorce proceedings.
Tamir claimed that some female MKs are elected to the Knesset by benefit of slots on their party's candidate list that are reserved for women, but then "as soon as they are elected turn their backs on the mechanism that made their election possible."
She allowed that in most cases, however, female MKs are more involved than their male colleagues in promoting gender equality laws.