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COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN REVIEWS THE REPORT OF ISRAEL

31 October 2017

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the sixth periodic report of Israel on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Introducing the report, Aviva Raz Schechter, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that Israel placed great importance on respect for human rights, adding that it was governed by the rule of law and that it was an open and dynamic society with a vibrant and active civil society. Between 2010 and 2014 alone, Israel had passed some 50 laws and amendments to further bolster gender equality and the empowerment of women. Furthermore, with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Israel was committed to achieving equality and leaving no one behind, and it had taken many steps towards the realization of Goal 5.

Emi Palmor, Director General of the Ministry of Justice of Israel, said that the advancement and promotion of women’s rights had been on the agenda of every Israeli Government since the foundation of the State of Israel. The Government had taken legislative steps that would serve to further gender equality in the labour market. With regard to employment in Government offices, women constituted 62 per cent of the employees in the civil service. According to the 2016 report, the majority of employees in the Ministry of Justice were women (68 per cent) and they also held the majority of high-ranking positions (66 per cent). There were virtually no wage differences between men and women in the Ministry of Justice.

In the ensuing discussion, Experts noted Israel’s will to move ahead in a number of sectors. But there were a number of remaining problems, such as the State party’s reservation to article 16 of the Convention on the age of marriage, and the fact that Israel had not ratified the Optional Protocol. Other issues highlighted by Experts were Israel’s extraterritorial obligations in the occupied Palestinian territories, namely the non-application of the Convention; ensuring the right to asylum; minority rights; limits on the work of civil society organizations, journalists and human rights defenders; the incorporation of international treaties; a comprehensive national plan to achieve the advancement of women; religious barriers to orthodox women’s political representation; lack of political representation of Arab women; integration of Arab women in the labour market; access to justice and legal aid; violence against women, and especially against Palestinian women; trafficking of women and exploitation of prostitution; forced evictions and forced displacement affecting Bedouin and Palestinian women; discrimination against women and girls in education; gender equality in employment; health services and medical resources; empowerment of rural women; and the authority of religious courts in matters of marriage and divorce.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Palmor thanked the Committee Experts for their questions, adding that she was happy to be living in a world that was concerned about human rights. So many women in Israel were still striving to achieve all the opportunities. Ms. Palmor said that the delegation had learned a lot from the dialogue.

Ms. Schechter said that the dialogue had been challenging and informative. She reiterated that Israel remained committed to implement the Convention, and she assured that all comments and remarks made would be examined by the Government of Israel.

Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue. The Committee commended the State party for its efforts and urged it to take all measures to implement the Committee’s recommendations throughout the territory of the State party.

The delegation of Israel consisted of representatives from the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Social Services, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 1 November, at 10 a.m. to consider the fifth periodic report of Kuwait (CEDAW/C/KWT/5).

Report

The sixth periodic report of Israel can be read here: CEDAW/C/ISR/6.

Presentation of the Report

AVIVA RAZ SCHECHTER, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that Israel placed great importance on respect for human rights, adding that it was governed by the rule of law and that it was an open and dynamic society with a vibrant and active civil society. Between 2010 and 2014 alone, Israel had passed some 50 laws and amendments to further bolster gender equality and the empowerment of women. Furthermore, with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Israel was committed to achieving equality and leaving no one behind, and it had taken many steps towards the realization of Goal 5. Israel had enacted the Equality of Women’s Rights Law of 2005, which mandated the inclusion of women to public bodies established by the Government on issues of national importance, including peace negotiations. Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development, had been actively training women from around the world to equip them with the necessary leadership skills in order for them to hold senior positions in society. In September 2014, the Ministry of Public Security and the Minister of Social Affairs and Social Services had decided to establish an inter-ministerial committee on domestic violence. Another important achievement was the adoption of the new resolution on “Preventing and Eliminating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.” Although it was facing many security challenges, Israel remained committed to peace. It had made many efforts to establish peace with its neighbours that had culminated in two peace accords signed with Egypt and Jordan. Israel was also striving to reach a historical compromise with the Palestinians that would finally bring to fulfilment the long desire to see the two States living side by side in peace and security.

EMI PALMOR, Director General of the Ministry of Justice, said that the advancement and promotion of women’s rights had been on the agenda of every Israeli Government since the foundation of the State of Israel. The Government was not alone in its endeavours; there were myriad other entities that were active in the promotion of women’s rights in Israel. Civil society was very active in initiating legislation, raising awareness and assisting in the promotion of human rights, with a strong emphasis on women’s rights, often providing impetus for Government action. In 2017 the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had initiated a “Round Tables” project, which had taken place in different academic institutions around Israel and had provided a unique platform for discourse between non-governmental organizations, academics and representatives of the Government on core human rights issues. In 2014, the Government had decided on a gradual duty of gender evaluation of the State budget and for the first time, the State budget had been examined through a gender analysis. By 2016, gender analysis had been performed for 70 per cent of Government ministries.

In the context of efforts to combat trafficking in persons, an inter-ministerial committee had been charged with examining the possibility of criminalizing the use of prostitution. The Penal Law criminalized acts that created the basis for the existence of prostitution, but, with the notable exception of the use of child prostitution, it did not criminalize the use of prostitution services. In July 2017, two private bills criminalizing the use of prostitution services had been approved in preliminary readings in the Knesset. Another inter-ministerial committee had been tasked with formulating a strategic plan to contend with the negative repercussions of polygamy, which was still common in the Muslim population, mainly in the Bedouin society, in Israel. A joint review team established in 2003 continued to conduct periodic reviews of cases of femicide in order to prevent their recurrence. An innovative and successful project, initiated by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Social Services together with the police, had placed a social worker in more than 25 police stations in order to strengthen cooperation and provide immediate support to victims.

The Government had also taken legislative steps that would serve to further gender equality in the labour market. Paid maternity leave had recently been extended by an additional week and it stood at 15 weeks. Additional flexibility had been added to the entitlement of fathers to paternity leave, including an amendment that enabled fathers whose wives were self-employed to take parental leave in lieu of their partners. With regard to employment in Government offices, women constituted 62 per cent of the employees in the civil service. According to the 2016 report, the majority of employees in the Ministry of Justice were women (68 per cent) and they also held the majority of high-ranking positions (66 per cent). There were virtually no wage differences between men and women in the Ministry of Justice. Achievement was also evident in the court system where the majority of judges were women (51 per cent). In April 2017, a woman had been appointed for the first time to serve as a Qadi in a Muslim religious court, which was a historic development for Muslim women and for the religious courts in Israel in general. As for Jewish religious courts, a landmark decision given by the High Court of Justice in August 2017 had ruled that the criteria used to appoint the Director of the Rabbinical Court had to be relevant and applicable to both women and men. An important amendment had been made earlier in 2017 to the Government regulation concerning the processing of asylum requests. It highlighted gender sensitivities that were central to the process of refugee status determination.

Questions by Committee Experts

Experts noted Israel’s will to move ahead in a number of sectors. But there were a number of remaining problems, such as the barriers to women’s full enjoyment of their rights, namely the State party’s reservation to article 16 of the Convention on the age of marriage. Could that reservation be withdrawn? The State party had not ratified the Optional Protocol; would it consider ratifying it?

As for the Supreme Court, anti-discrimination was not supplied with a sufficiently robust framework. How could the Parliament ensure the rights of women? How could the State party enable the visibility of the Convention?

With respect to Israel’s extraterritorial obligations in the Palestinian territories, it was essential to have an evaluation of Israel’s measures in the Palestinian occupied territories in terms of Jewish settlements which had been condemned by the entire international community, as well as the non-existence of humanitarian assistance. Could the Committee expect the extension of Israel’s international obligations to Palestinian territories? There had been reports that civil society organizations had been prevented from acting and exercising their freedom of expression.

On the right to asylum, it seemed that not many people could benefit from the refugee status. The rights of minorities were another concern and there were historical roots to that issues. For example, the Bedouin community had been pushed into forced urbanisation.

Replies by the Delegation

AVIVA RAZ SCHECHTER, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, explained that the Government’s position on the non-application of the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territories had not changed. The Convention was not applicable beyond the State’s territories due to legal and practical realities.

As for the reservation to article 16 of the Convention concerning marital age, the Government was preparing an internal discussion on that matter. Concerning the judicial authority in personal status matters, those were with the Family Matters Court and the Rabbinic Court. In 2012 an amendment stipulated the monitoring of divorce judgments, whereas in 2017, the relevant law had been further amended in order to add to the administrative sanctions that could be imposed on husbands who had been imprisoned for refusing to grant a divorce.

Israel placed no limitations on the work of civil society organizations. Every person and organization enjoyed the right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of expression, which were the cornerstones of Israel’s democracy. The right to assembly had to be balanced with the need to maintain peace and order. The Government recognized the right of journalists to report freely. The High Court of Justice had recently rendered a decision on the right to demonstrate as a significant component of freedom of expression.

The incorporation of international treaties was done via specific legislation, such as basic laws, regulations and court rulings. Laws should not contradict the laws of the Knesset since Israel operated under the principle of legal compatibility. The Convention was published in English, Arabic and Hebrew on the website of the Government ministry in charge of women’s affairs.

As for refugees and asylum seekers, given the situation in Darfur, humanitarian solutions had to be implemented. Any individual granted the refugee status received a renewable residence permit, and their status was reviewed if the situation in their home countries change.

Follow-up Questions

With respect to freedom of expression, Experts referred to a United Nations report on journalists’ inability to exercise their activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. Humanitarian issues were necessary to stress the conditions in which many women had to live in Gaza at the moment. The economic model there was simply no longer sustainable. Israel was responsibility for ensuring the minimum humanitarian standards. Was there a certain percentage of persons who had been granted refugee status, specifically from Eritrea and Sudan?

Referring to the fact that there was no definition of discrimination against women, Experts asked how the State party developed the principles of gender equality.

As for the reservation to article 16 of the Convention, it seemed that Israel’s legal system was using the Convention nevertheless. So why did the State party still refuse to lift or at least limit the reservation on that article?

Replies by the Delegation

AVIVA RAZ SCHECHTER, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, emphasised that due to Hamas’ control of Gaza, it was difficult for Israel to have ways and means to improve the situation of women there. Israel was doing its utmost to improve the economic situation in Gaza, providing hundreds of trucks with needed products. It also tried to organize programmes to empower women.

The delegation clarified that equality of women had been ensured through a number of laws. The decisions of the Supreme Court on discrimination were based on equality principles. The Government would consider the Committee’s comments regarding the reservation to article 16. The Supreme Court had adopted the basic rights of equality, as exemplified in a recent decision by the Supreme Court in a case of a woman whose husband was in vegetative state.

Questions by Committee Experts

Experts welcomed the increased budget devoted to the advancement of women and mainstreaming of gender analysis in Government ministries. However, they asked about the status of adoption of a comprehensive national plan to achieve the advancement of women. The authority for the advancement of women had a broad mandate. How did it monitor the implementation of policies across different Government bodies? Was the authority authorized to modify the State budget?

Since there was no national human rights institution in the country, there were several mechanisms to replace it. Had the State party considered establishing a strong human rights institute in accordance with the Paris Principles?

In terms of temporary special measures, Experts inquired about the quotas for the employment of Arab women. Despite the quotas, there was still a very small number of them in high-ranking positions. Was there any update on the success of that plan? Allegedly, orthodox Jewish women had been prevented from running for Knesset positions. The lack of political representation of orthodox Jewish women harmed their access to basic rights. What temporary special measures had been put in place to suppress such religiously inspired barriers?

Experts commended the representation of women in the police and the judiciary. Why was there a low number of Muslim judges and did some of them identify as Palestinian? What special measures were in place to end discrimination against Haredi women in Israel? Palestinian women were frequently assaulted and searched at check points. What was being done to stop that?

Replies by the Delegation

EMI PALMOR, Director General of the Ministry of Justice, said there were many aspects of the involvement of women in the judicial system, and there were many Muslim men who were judges. The Government did not know why there were so few Muslim women judges (seven per cent), and it was trying to encourage them to consider that profession. The right analysis of their representation in the judiciary should be done according to the total number of female Arabic law students. As for a comprehensive action plan on the advancement of women, due to the situation of personnel, it took a long time to bring the right person to the National Authority for the Advancement of Women. It was quite rare to have a Ministry of Justice like in Israel without virtually any gender pay gap.

There were many different commissioners dealing with different aspects of human rights. The lack of a single human rights institution was due to the fact that it was an internal political issue and involved the powers of different ministries. Ms. Palmor said that the Attorney General had condemned the religious barriers to orthodox women’s political representation. It was a big dilemma and challenge to integrate orthodox Jewish women in education and labour in light of their traditional values and demands.

The integration of Arab women in the labour market was a very important issue for the Government. The Government was trying to increase the number of Arab girls and women in the education system, and it had conducted a number of programmes to empower Arab women. A diversity index had been published in 2016 in order to gather information about the diversity of the Israeli labour market. The Government was working hard to enhance the quality of Muslim women candidates.

Follow-up Questions by Experts

Turning to Israel’s framework for the Sustainable Development Goals, Experts welcomed the fact that the strategy for women’s rights was at the heart of the framework. However, there was a need for comprehensive approach to equality policies for minorities. Experts reiterated the question about the assault faced by Palestinian women at security check points.

As for women’s participation in public affairs and political life, could the State party state the measures to increase their participation?

Turning to access to justice and legal aid in matters of personal status, Experts noted that there were reports indicating a decreasing number of appeals to legal aid under new and very strict guidelines. Did the State party plan to review the system and develop a new one that would not discriminate against poor parties? Non-residents could not even ask for legal aid. Did the State party plan to improve their situation?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that recently there had been a big change in the number of women holding high-raking positions in the police. Assaults at check points took place only when there were security concerns and when those concerns required proportional measures. Soldiers were trained to always conduct themselves in a humane manner, and to treat women in accordance with their human dignity and cultural background. Searches on women were only conducted by female soldiers. Any allegations of ill-treatment of women were fully examined.

Legal aid in Israel was provided to individuals based on their financial status. The change of policy was a result of the appeal of the High Court of Justice, claiming that previous policies had been discriminatory to men. Now financial eligibility test was applied to both parents. Periodic reviews were applied to the current policy on legal aid. Women were much more represented in legal aid issues in the country. A legal aid office had been opened in the Bedouin area of the country.

Additional funding had been devoted to women’s representation at the local level, but not at the regional level. The underrepresentation of women at the local level was mainly due to lack of information and awareness, and the authorities had recommended increasing awareness with respect to gender budgeting at the local level.

AVIVA RAZ SCHECHTER, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, responding to a question on the role of women in conflict resolution and promoting peace, noted that the Government of Israel encouraged the Palestinian Authority to involve more women in that process and in education for peace, rather than promoting martyrdom. Many groups of women from the Palestinian Authority had come to Israel to exchange views with women in Israel.

Questions by Committee Experts

Turning to stereotypes and harmful practices against women, Experts inquired about the exclusion of women from public life, which was very shocking because it was inconsistent with the principles of a democratic society. It seemed that the Government had met tremendous resistance when it had tried to deal with that issue. What were the efforts to train religious judges on domestic violence?

Minorities were often victims of various forms of discrimination and violence, and they suffered from lack of opportunities. The best approach for the State party would be to adopt the Istanbul Convention.

On violence against women, and especially against Palestinian women, Experts reminded of the non-application of the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territories. How could the State party balance its position on human rights and obligations emanating from international human rights treaties? Were there efforts to project a positive image of Palestinian women? Was there any investigation of excessive use of force against women at security check points? What was the position of the State party regarding the collective punishment imposed against the Palestinians, such as through the demolition of their houses and night raids?

There had been an increased number of women in detention. How did the State party implement the Committee’s recommendation on access to justice? Regarding violence against female human rights defenders, was the State party assessing a proposal that the law on their treatment by police officers be amended?

On trafficking of women and exploitation of prostitution, what steps had been taken to align relevant legislation with the Palermo Protocol? What were mechanisms to monitor labour recruitment agencies in order to prevent attempts of exploitation of prostitution? There was concern that female asylum seekers and migrants entering the State party through the Sinai were at high risk of becoming victims of sexual and labour trafficking.

The practice of forced evictions and forced displacement affecting Bedouin and Palestinian women had further exacerbated their already vulnerable position. What preventive programmes and measures had been taken to protect them? The porous border policing between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories had led to increased trafficking in women and girls. What proactive social measures had been taken to protect those women and prevent them from falling prey to renewed risks? What was the present status of bills to criminalize prostitution services?

Replies by the Delegation

EMI PALMOR, Director General of the Ministry of Justice, said that there were no negative stereotypes of Palestinian women. Nevertheless, there were some Palestinian women who praised their sons’ decisions to commit suicide attacks, which was shocking. Turning to prostitution, there were some 10,000 persons involved in prostitution in the country and most of them were Israeli citizens. The Government was trying to change the notion that asking for prostitution services was something common.

As for trafficking, the Government was focused on victim identification and it was starting a project to aid victims of torture from Sinai. Israel saw the exclusion of women from the public sphere as a severe phenomenon. Efforts had been undertaken by the National Authority for the Advancement of Women to prevent the exclusion of women, Ms. Palmor explained.

The delegation said that the awareness of judges in religious and ordinary courts of domestic violence and violence against women was part of their regular training.

On incarceration of Palestinian prisoners inside Israel, the delegation clarified that the practice had been found to be lawful. The decisions in recent cases had actually resulted in a significant improvement in detention conditions. In 2016, an amendment to the Fire Arms Law clarified that private security guards could carry their weapons only during their working hours and at their workplace.

The zoning (demolition) plans in the West Bank did not discriminate between Israeli and Arab buildings and they were directed against illegally built structures. The enforcement process guaranteed due process and security considerations. All actions were subject to judicial review. The Bedouins in the West Bank resided on lands over which they held no ownership.

The Government was currently discussing the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. The Ministry of Justice had conducted activities to warn of dangers and risks of sexual exploitation online, whereas the police had recently established a unit dedicated to the investigation of sexual exploitation online.

Follow-up Questions by Experts

Experts asked for clarification on the implementation of the Committee’s recommendation regarding access to justice, and the demolition of houses in the West Bank. What were the details of education for peace? Rights of women were part of security concerns, an Expert observed.

Experts drew attention to rehabilitation services for victims of trafficking, and to the fact the many traffickers had not received commensurate sentences for their crimes. What measures had been taken to rehabilitate women prostitutes?

Replies by the Delegation

EMI PALMOR, Director General of the Ministry of Justice, explained that the demolition of houses was taking place in Jewish parts, not only in Bedouin parts, because there were many illegal settlements. A Bedouin authority was also involved in the deliberations surrounding the demolition of illegal buildings. The Government was trying to find solutions in agreement with the population.

The Government understood that it would have to invest a lot of money for the rehabilitation of women prostitutes. As for shelters for victims of trafficking, Ms. Palmor said that the delegation would respond in writing.

The delegation explained that the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Social Services had significantly raised the budget for shelters for trafficking victims and victims of domestic violence. The Government provided a wide range of health services to persons who had entered Israel from Egypt. There were clinics providing health services to migrants with funding from the Ministry of Health.

Questions by Committee Experts

Experts commended the State party for the fact that the majority of judges in courts of first instances were women, that there was increased representation of women in the Knesset, and that women had been elected to some key posts in the country. However, there was a lack of political representation of Arab women. What kind of programmes were in place to motivate and empower Arab women? What were the current initiatives to ensure gender parity in political parties, including ultra-orthodox Jewish political parties? Would the State party consider decreasing financial support for political parties that excluded women?

What measures were in place to increase the overall representation of women in the Supreme Court? What other measures were in place to allow women to take part in the rabbinical court process? What was being done to increase the representation of Arabic and Haredi women in the civil service?

Experts also inquired about the complete prevention of family reunification deriving from the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law of 2003. The law prohibited granting a status either as resident or as Israeli citizen to the Palestinians of the occupied territories married to Israeli Palestinians, or to East Jerusalem Palestinian residents. Women were particularly affected by that legislation. Was the Government ready to reconsider that law and present a bill to the Knesset to grant residency permits to spouses from the occupied Palestinian territories? Would the Government consider a system of targeted security measures, applied on a case-by-case basis, but with guarantees of non-discriminatory treatment?

Replies by the Delegation

EMI PALMOR, Director General of the Ministry of Justice, clarified that women could present in front of rabbinical courts. As for the representation of Arab women, Ms. Palmor said there were not enough Arabs in the Ministry of Justice. However, it was also a question of whether people wanted to represent the State. Since Israel was a multi-political party system with many political parties being Jewish oriented, many Arab women would not be interested in being part of such political parties. On ultra-orthodox Jewish parties, the Attorney General did not approve of them imposing barriers to the political representation of women.

The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law of 2005 was a result of a context in which many terrorist attacks had been carried out. The Government was fully aware of the effect it had on Palestinian women and men. It did take measures to ease longer residence permits on the grounds of family reunification.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided a very good example of the representation of the Haredi women, said AVIVA RAZ SCHECHTER, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Arab women and ultra-orthodox Jewish women also participated in cadet classes.

Follow-up Questions by Committee Experts

As for ultra-orthodox women’s inability to run for political positions, how did the State party reconcile that situation with its basic laws? How could it be acceptable in a democratic country that women could not participate in the political process? What was the plan to take concrete and strong measures to ensure that women could stand as candidates at all levels?

Experts wondered whether there was a possibility of a woman being appointed as a rabbinical judge. The lack of intervention on the right of women to stand as candidates was not in line with Israel’s basic laws.

Replies by the Delegation

EMI PALMOR, Director General of the Ministry of Justice, explained that there were non-orthodox political parties in Israel that may offer ultra-orthodox women places on electoral lists. The Government agreed with the difficulty voiced by Committee Experts. The Attorney General had decided not to intervene in the matter of the representation of ultra-orthodox women. Ms. Palmor clarified that it was not possible for women to be appointed as rabbinical judges; that was the reality of the Jewish faith.

Questions by Committee Experts

As for the elimination of discrimination against women and girls in education, Experts commended the approval by the Knesset in 2011 and 2014 of the Pupils’ Rights Law, which had extended the list of grounds upon which discrimination was prohibited, namely national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the Committee remained concerned that Arab, Bedouin and Christian women and girls in Israel and Palestinian women and girls continued to be disadvantaged and marginalized in their access to quality education, educational resources and unequal school budgets.

What measures were being taken to ensure age-appropriate education in sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls of those disadvantaged groups? When would the blanket ban on students from Gaza to access education in the West Bank be lifted? What measures had been taken to stop restrictions by Israeli security forces at check points that adversely affected access to education by Palestinian women and girls? What was the status of Israeli women of Ethiopian descent with respect to their access to equality education? What measures were being taken to redress the situation of gender equality and the elimination of gender stereotypes in Arab schools?

On gender equality in employment, Experts inquired about further incentives to encourage employers to adopt transparent and equal salary policies. Women and men in Israel still occupied traditional professional positions. Experts also expressed some concerns about the investigation of sexual harassment in the workplace. Was there a quota for the recruitment of ultra-orthodox and Bedouin women? There was a high unemployment rate among Palestinian women. How did the State party plan to address all the obstacles to the employment of Palestinian women?

With respect to health services and medical resources, Experts observed existing inequalities, such as in the occupied Palestinian territories. Pregnant Palestinian women suffered due to movement restrictions. Palestinian women also experienced unsatisfactory access to contraceptives and specialized health services. What actions had the State party taken to promote sexual and reproductive health education among ultra-orthodox Jewish women? How did the State party protect the health rights of Palestinian women? Which health care unit supported lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons? What programmes were running for women with HIV/AIDS?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that all schools textbooks were subject to gender-based analysis. The school drop-out rate among Arab boys was higher than among Arab girls. Boys and girls in high schools had plenty of opportunity to learn about gender.

With respect to health services and medical resources, the delegation said that cancer was the most frequent cause of death in Israel. The life expectancy of the Arab population had increased significantly recently. But the Arab population remained younger than the Jewish one. Many health projects were being launched for ultra-orthodox women.

The gender pay gap in Israel stood at 30 per cent. In order to encourage employers to implement equal salaries, the Government encouraged them to use the diversity index. Diversity plans developed by the Government promoted the recruitment of a diverse workforce. The Government also sued employers in case of wage disparities.

The integration of ultra-orthodox men in the military did not in any way jeopardise the serving of women in the army.

Questions by Committee Experts

How did the State party ensure equal access to services by women and men, and by Jewish and other women? Many women had no access to social services. What was the current strategy in that respect? How did women participate in the decision-making process on climate change? How was access to equal opportunities in the digital realm guaranteed?

As for the empowerment of rural women, there were reports that the funds for the empowerment and socio-economic strengthening of the Bedouin localities in the Naquab were conditioned on the execution of forced urbanization, displacement and home demolitions in the 35 unrecognized villages in the Naquab. What was the process of consultation with the Bedouin community, especially women? Why did the State party not proceed to recognize the unrecognized villages? What social security programmes were in place for Bedouin women? Did they have access to credit and banking services in the villages? Experts reminded that the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran had been demolished and replaced with the Jewish town of Hiran in which only Jewish Israeli citizens or permanent citizens of Israel observing the Torah and commandments of Orthodox Jewish values could live.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation noted that discrimination based on age was prohibited in Israel. More Arab women were achieving academic goals, and 64 per cent of students studying in the Technical University were Arab women. Funds were provided to recruit Arab women in technical professions.

As for the Bedouin communities in the Negev, that issue was handled by the Bedouin Authority. In February 2017, a Government resolution promulgated a five-year plan to financially empower local Bedouin authorities and improve local infrastructure. A lot of work had been done to discuss issues with the Bedouin population, especially women. So far, 18 Bedouin localities had approved the plan. With respect to the demolition of illegal structures, the Government could not overlook the zoning plans and it had to authorize demolition orders. The majority of demolished structures were makeshift.

Questions by Committee Experts

An Expert shared her amazement about the existence of modernity in Israel, and the impossibility to modernize the rules of personal status determined mainly by rabbinical courts. Civil interfaith marriage was possible abroad, but the divorce would be decided in front of a rabbinical court. Was the State party ready to draft a bill on interfaith couples being able to divorce in front of a civil court? Was the State party ready to try again to transfer the burden of proof from women to courts?

On the joint custody of children, alternative sources mentioned very negative consequences for women. What progress had been made in that respect? Bigamy and polygamy existed among Muslim communities. What was the status of the proposal that men living in bigamy or polygamy not be recruited in the civil service? What measures had been taken to prevent child marriages?

Replies by the Delegation

EMI PALMOR, Director General of the Ministry of Justice, said that Sharia courts were reporting child marriages. Polygamy was in the focus of the Government’s activities, but the Government was not considering the outright firing of men living in bigamy and polygamy, but preventing them from advancing in their careers.

The delegation explained that the matters of marriage and divorce had been managed by religious courts since the establishment of the State of Israel, reflecting the diversity of society. The Knesset had not yet passed a law on civil marriage, but it passed a law recognizing civil partnership for persons not belonging to any religion. Couples married abroad would be registered in Israel, whether they were same-sex or heterosexual couples.

On joint custody of children, the delegation clarified that this issue was a subject of huge controversy. Even though more men had recently requested joint custody of children, the main guardians remained women. The Rabbinical Court Act had been amended in 2012, requiring courts to monitor the enforcement of divorce decisions.

Follow-up Questions by Experts

How was the rule that illegitimate children could marry only illegitimate children overcome? What was the policy on the reintegration of teenage mothers into school?

Replies by the Delegation

EMI PALMOR, Director General of the Ministry of Justice, explained that polygamy was the result of tribal habits of the Bedouin communities. Israel was a society in transition when it came to marriage and divorce rules. Teenage mothers were not supposed to be out of school.

The delegation clarified that the matters of marriage and divorce were social and religious issues, and it was doubtful that the change in civil law would lead to a change in society.

Concluding Remarks

EMI PALMOR, Director General of the Ministry of Justice, thanked the Committee Experts for their questions, adding that she was happy to be living in a world that was concerned about human rights. So many women in Israel were still striving to achieve all the opportunities. Ms. Palmor said that the delegation had learned a lot from the dialogue.

AVIVA RAZ SCHECHTER, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the dialogue had been challenging and informative. She reiterated that Israel remained committed to implementing the Convention, and assured that all comments and remarks made would be examined by the Government of Israel.

DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue. The Committee commended the State party for its efforts and urged it to take all measures to implement the Committee’s recommendations throughout the territory of the State party.

For use of the information media; not an official record

CEDAW/17/35E

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