February 8, 2011
Court upholds agunah’s right to damages
A Tel Aviv court upheld the right of women denied a religious divorce by their husbands to sue for damages.
The District Court ruled that an Israeli woman who has been refused a religious divorce, or get, by her husband for the past 16 years has the right to receive nearly $200,000 from him in damages that had been awarded by a family court, The Jerusalem Post reported.
“The respondent had the right to a get from the moment she wanted one, and all the more so when she married the appellant at the age of 24, was with him for all of three months, and knew no comfort from him,” the judge wrote in a decision issued last week. “Today, almost 40 years old, she continues to suffer from his cruelty towards her. He prevents, and prevented her, from experiencing life’s joys, establishing a family, and especially from having children. We are talking about immeasurable damage that increases by the day.”
According to Jewish law, a woman may not remarry until she receives a religious divorce from her husband. A woman refused this get is called an agunah, or chained woman. In Israel, all marriages and divorces between Jewish couples must be in accordance with Jewish law.
The National Council of Jewish Women welcomed the court’s decision, calling it an important precedent for women in the Jewish Diaspora as well.
“The ability to win damages when the get process is abused by husbands will bring much needed relief to agunot, especially in the absence of legislative action that provides a legal, just, and moral solution to remedy the marriage inequality suffered by women,” the group’s president and CEO, Nancy Ratzan and Nancy Kaufman, said in a statement.
“The ruling by the court in Tel Aviv must be allowed to stand, but it does not relieve the Knesset of its responsibility to enact a comprehensive remedy. We hope the ruling brings that day closer.”