Israel to Form Government Committee to Assist Transgender Community

Team headed by justice and welfare officials to submit recommendations for removing obstacles the community faces in dealing with government ministries and other issues, after decade of inaction by conservative governments

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
People march for transgender rights in Tel Aviv, July 2019.
People march for transgender rights in Tel Aviv, July 2019.Credit: Meged Gozani
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn and Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli announced an inter-ministerial team to consider ways to ease hardships for transgender people on Monday.

The team is to be the first of its kind in the country and includes top professionals from the justice, health, welfare and education ministries. Members are expected to meet with leaders of organizations that work with the transgender community and to then map out problems and submit recommendations to the cabinet within four months.

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The team, to be headed by Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber and Avi Mutula, deputy director-general of the Welfare Ministry, will meet with organizations such as the Gilo Project, Brit Haleviot, Trans Israel and the Aguda – Israel’s LGBT Task Force. The recommendations will likely include proposals for removing obstacles the community faces in dealing with government ministries and amendments that would help transgender people.

Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated a commitment to help the transgender community, the governments he headed over the past decade have been conservative and barely addressed LGBTQ issues. Some steps have been taken to address LGBTQ issues in recent months, however – most notably, the Knesset's preliminary approval for a ban on so-called conversion therapy, outraging the ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition.

Research published in 2015 shows 41 percent the country's transgender people have attempted suicide and that 10 percent have been involved in sex work. Half said they had been victims of physical violence over their gender identity, 24 percent experienced physical violence at work and 68 percent of transgender employees have suffered discrimination in the workplace.

Nissenkorn said that “the team will get into the details, hear about the problems and present for the first time a holistic picture that will allow us to suggest solutions with regard to all aspects of life for the transgender community in Israel.” He added that “at meetings of state authorities, the transgender community runs into unnecessary issues,” and that the government had the obligation “to permit every person to live their lives according to their own choice, and in a simple, accessible and equal way.”

Shmuli welcomed the step and said, “the State of Israel is advancing another significant step toward a place where all Israeli citizens will feel equal before the authorities.”

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