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Israel’s ‘chained women’ fight for right to divorce


She is one of Israel’s “chained women” — the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of wives denied a divorce by their husbands and prevented from breaking free by the country’s use of Jewish law.

The 30-year-old mother of two is hardly unique in struggling to obtain a divorce in a country where men must grant permission for their wives to leave.

But her case has shone a spotlight on the issue after her husband Oded Guez was named and shamed by a religious court for refusing to grant a divorce.

“I have been asking for a divorce for four years, and the rabbinical court ordered him to give it to me two years ago,” she told AFP in an interview, asking for her name not to be published.

Her main aim, she said, is “to gain my freedom as soon as possible.”

Marriage in Israel is governed by Jewish law, which requires the husband to grant permission through what is known as a “get” before his wife can divorce him.

If the woman has a child with another man without an official divorce, the child is considered fatherless and cannot marry under Jewish law.

The case of Guez and his wife has drawn new attention to the issue due to moves by a rabbinical court.

The court sought to force Guez to grant the divorce by shaming and essentially excommunicating him.

It also authorised the judgment to be published on social networks, as requested by his wife, while calling on the community to shun Guez.

It was shared widely online along with Guez’s photo

“One must not ask him about his well-being,” said the order. “He cannot participate in daily communal prayer, nor recite kaddish (the prayer for the dead) in a synagogue when a relation dies as long as he ignores the call of rabbis and refuses to provide the ‘get’ to his wife.”

There are officially 131 “chained” women involved in rabbinical court cases in Israel, where around 11,000 divorces of Jewish couples are granted annually, said rabbinical courts director Shimon Yaakobi.

But since that number includes only cases where the court has ordered the husband to grant the divorce, activists say it is far below the actual amount.

Aliza Gellis of the organisation Yad Lisha, which provides legal aid to “chained” wives, said it receives 6,000 requests for help every year.

There are also rare cases of men seeking to divorce, but their wives refusing to accept “gets”.

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