If society understands that animals should be protected from violence, it should understand the same about women, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday at an event to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
“Women aren’t animals that you can beat, and today, we say you don’t hit animals, either,” Netanyahu said. “We understand that animals, too, have understanding and intelligence and cognition and feelings. We rightly have compassion for animals. Well, women are animals, children are animals – animals with rights. This is something that must pass from the world, and I hope we’ll no longer see such shocking things.”
At the event, Netanyahu also said the government would create a national agency for the prevention of domestic violence, as proposed by Community Development Minister Orli Levi-Abekasis and MK Osnat Mark (Likud). But sources involved in the issue said the idea is still being studied, and Netanyahu’s remarks are merely a statement of intentions.
Under a proposal drafted by Levi-Abekasis’ office at the request of the Prime Minister’s Office, establishing the new agency would cost around 20 million shekels ($6 million). “We’re sick of committees,” Levi-Abekasis said at the same event. “We have no more time to waste. An agency like this is great tidings for Israel and a significant milestone in the national effort to end a problem that many women and men suffer from.”
Representatives of women’s groups and Netanyahu’s wife Sara also participated in the event at the Knesset.
According to Social Affairs Ministry data released on Monday, the number of domestic violence complaints has tripled since the coronavirus erupted in March. Altogether, there were 7,201 complaints from March through October, compared to 2,530 in the same period last year.
Municipal welfare services have opened 2,885 domestic violence cases since the start of the year, an increase of 22 percent over last year. Roughly 20 percent of these cases involved families that had never previously been referred to social services.
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The ministry attributed the significant rise in domestic violence mainly to the tensions created by the virus, which has kept people at home, and the economic crisis the pandemic has spawned. But it said another factor was growing awareness of the ministry’s 118 hotline.
It said 11 percent of hotline calls are transferred immediately to the police, and 5 percent of complaints to the hotline are received by text message rather than a phone call. The ministry also said it plans to open 60 new municipal centers for treating domestic violence, on top of the 111 that already exist. In addition, as Haaretz has previously reported, it will open two new shelters for battered women and four centers for initial assistance to victims that will operate around the clock.
Opening the new centers will cost 8.5 million shekels, and they are already in the process of being set up, the ministry said. The towns slated to receive them include Mitzpeh Ramon, Givatayim and Harish.
The state’s main response to domestic violence victims in potentially life-threatening situations is to put the women and children in shelters. But this solution has been harshly criticized by both professionals and activists as effectively imprisoning the victims while letting the perpetrators go free.