'Men who leave their wives 'chained' can't expect religious rights'
'Men who leave their wives 'chained' can't expect religious rights' Thinkstock

The Ministerial Legislative Committee – that which determines whether the government will support or reject new legislation – has approved a bill designed to help "chained" women: If the recalcitrant husband is jailed for not giving a get (religious divorce), he will be prohibited from being served kosher l'mehadrin food, he will not be incarcerated in a haredi-style wing of the prison, and he will not be permitted to take part in Torah classes in jail – or even to use the jail's religious books.

The proposed legislation takes into account the fact that Rabbinical Courts sometimes order the incarceration of men who refuse to give their wives a get – thus keeping them "chained" and forbidden from remarrying. Some husbands, as in a recent case reported by Arutz Sheva, will immediately agree to give the get rather than remain in jail – but some are willing to forego their freedom rather than give the get.

According to a former top-ranking employee of the Religious Affairs Ministry, there are currently an estimated ten men imprisoned for not giving their wives a religious divorce. As such, the bill's effectiveness has been questioned.

The Religious Court System has recommended that such prisoners be denied certain benefits generally given to religious men in jail. The new bill, proposed by MK Shuli Mualem (Jewish Home) with the support of Emunah Women, is based on these recommendations.

Women who refuse to accept a religious divorce are not imprisoned, although there are estimated to be an equal number of women and men who refuse to allow their spouses to remarry – about 200 of each. These numbers reflect the number of divorce files that have remained unresolved in the religious courts for two years or more.

Mualem explained, "One who keeps his wife chained and refuses to adhere to the religious court judges who order him to give the get, thus shows that Jewish Law is not truly important to him. He rather tramples the Jewish principle of 'loving your neighbor as yourself' simply so that he can embitter his wife. He is therefore not worthy of the privileges granted by the Prison Service to religious prisoners."