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Knesset Tackles Domestic Violence; Vows to Take Steps to Combat Problem

The Israeli government has resolved to take steps to combat the growing trend of violence against women in Israeli society.

At a special Knesset session devoted to the issue this week, dozens of Knesset members took to the podium to discuss the issue and make recommendations for legislation that would help ease the situation.

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ora Namir of the Labor Party said her ministry has established 10 regional counseling centers for troubled couples and that the centers have worked with 1,200 couples so far this year.

She also said that financial support for battered women’s shelters has increased dramatically over the past two years, and that some $1.3 million have been allocated to shelters this year.

Among the other speakers was Naomi Chazan of Meretz, who has introduced a bill that would recognize extenuating circumstances in murder cases stemming from domestic abuse.

She said the idea for the bill arose from two recent cases. In one case, a son killed his father, who had been abusing his mother for years. The other case involved a woman who murdered her husband, who had also been abusing her. Both individuals are currently in jail.

“Up to now there has been a compulsory 25 years to life sentence for murder, but there has not been an ability to take into account special circumstances,” Chazan told Israel Radio. “The idea behind this law is (not) to condone murder, but to make it clear that there are extenuating circumstances which relate to violence.”

Israeli activists have long complained about the difficulty of compiling hard statistics on domestic abuse, particularly since police files on assault and murder do not specify whether a case involved domestic violence.

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