Knesset Advances Bill Allowing Survivors of Sexual Assault to Reveal Their Identities

Sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, new law will upturn current ban on media and other entities sharing personal details of survivors – if they agree

"SlutWalk" demonstration against sexual violence in the southern Israeli town of Be’er Sheva, June 7, 2018
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

In an initial vote on Tuesday, the Knesset approved legislation that will permit sexual assault survivors to be interviewed in the media. Until now, the penal code has prohibited publication of personal details or identities of individuals who have been, or claim to be victims of sexual crimes unless they have received permission from a judge, or a court has authorized this due to special circumstances.

The principle behind the ban – violation of which is punishable by a one-year jail term – is that it would allow individuals who suffered sexual assault to begin legal proceedings without fear that their identities would be revealed against their will. The basic assumption was that, in most instances, complainants or victims would want to protect their privacy. However, in reality, the existing legislation prohibits these individuals from revealing what happened to them in public, or forces them to break the law.

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The proposed legislation, sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, enables complainants or victims, if they are adults, to agree to reveal their identities without permission from a court. To protect minors and prevent the possibility that they will be pressured in an inappropriate way, the new law establishes that they will need to declare in court that they agree to exposure of their personal information.

The current law banning publication of details of people suffering sexual assault is rarely enforced. However, its critics say that it prevents various bodies – such as Knesset committees and the press – from revealing the identities of survivors who want their to go public. Media outlets and other entities seeking to promote public debate in cooperation with victims of sexual crimes have been concerned about legal liability, and have abstained from revealing personal information despite the victims’ willingness.

After the bill passed its first reading in the plenum, Minister Shaked said: “The State of Israel must do everything to protect sexual assault survivors. Now we shall address the injustice suffered by victims, whereby after their assaults they are prohibited from discussing them. I thank MKs Aliza Lavie [Yesh Atid] and Orli Levi-Abekasis [Independent] for proposing this bill and journalist Yael Dan for putting this issue on the public agenda.”