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Na’amat Opposes Bill in Israel That Would Lower Marriage Age for Girls from 17 to 16

A sharp debate has erupted in Israel over a legislative proposal to lower the marriage age, from 17 to 16, for females, it was reported by Phyllis Sutker, national president of Pioneer Women/Na’amat, Sutker, who just returned from a tour of Na’amat installations in Israel and from meetings of the Zionist General Council, said that Na’amat, its sister group there, has launched a nationwide drive against the bill, calling it “a shameful step backward.

Mash Lube lsky, secretary-generaI of Na ‘amat, the largest women’s organization in Israel, assailed the proposal by declaring: “Very early marriages are dangerous. A girl of 16 who is having problems at home or in school may see marriage as her only way out. A girl of 17 has other options, more opportunities of becoming independent.”

Meir Cohen-Avidov, a Likud Knesset member who introduced the measure, contends that 16-vear-old girls are more ready for marriage than girls of that age in previous generations because of their greater sexual knowledge and freedom.

But Lubelsky contests that view and asserts that physicians, psychologists, sociologists and social workers also reject it. She said that Na’amat has called on Justice Minister Moshe Nissim to block the bill. Lubelsky noted that many of the women who sought legal aid from Na’amat were child brides from disadvantaged homes, who had been married despite the existing law. “These early and often hasty marriages can later be dissolved only by divorce,” she said.

Haviva Avigai, the head of Na’amat’s Legal Aid Service, said that, based on the organization’s wide experience, “women who marry at a very young age are more likely to be battered wives and have marriages that fail than women who marry when they are older.”

Sutker said the proposed change in the law “would inevitably mean that more girls drop out of school before they have the skills necessary to become gainfully employed. This is self-defeating fora country that desperately needs well-trained and well-educated people to help strengthen its economy and. its society.”

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