Women in Israel

The employment status of women in Israel is such that since the formation of the state, the women had a higher unemployment ratio than that of men in the country. The ratio of unemployment among women was 11.3 percent in the year 2003 as against 10.2 percent of men in the country. Women in Israel are more inclined to take up salaried employment than pursing some occupation of their own. The statistical information that 91.4 percent of working Israeli women is having salaried employment as compared to that of 82.4 percent of men goes to prove this fact. However more of the Israeli women have been occupying the operational roles than the executive roles with only 4.4 percent of the salaried women holding executive positions while 11.6 percent of the employed men in Israel discharge executive functions (Jerusalem Post).Women in Political ScenarioOf the total 121 countries which have representation of women in the political arena, Israel is being placed in the 66th position despite the fact that the country was once led by a lady prime minister. The county witnesses a women participation of about 15 percent of the total 120 member parliament also known as Knesset. This representation places the country in a position that lie in between Arab World and the developing Western nations in their outlook towards encouraging women in political scenario. The female composition in Scandinavian legislators is the highest with 40 percent of the total number being occupied by women. In the Arab countries the women representation in politics is a meager 6.4 percent, while in the member states of the European Union the percentage remains at 17.6 (Jerusalem Post).Under the current Israeli administration, the composition of women ministers has shown an increasing trend from the previous 11 percent to 13 percent. However with the resignation of the environment minister due to her ill health has reduced the percentage again. It may be noted that only 10 women have taken part in the administration of the country since its formation (Jerusalem Post).General Status of Women in IsraelJudging by Western standards, the attitude towards women in the country of Israel is found to be regressive. Women do not have the right to testify in rabbinical courts which are responsible for handling the cases of divorce and marriage for all Jews. They are not granted divorce without the permission of the husband. Still worse is the condition that a childless widow should get the approval of the brother-in-law for getting remarried. This is sometimes accomplished by offering bribes. If a woman happens to meet the fate of all her three husbands dying of natural cause then she is declared ineligible to get married. If the husband of a woman disappears, no matter how long there is no information about the runaway husband the wife cannot marry without an absolute proof of his death. Majority of the women are normally found to occupy lowly paid occupations like teaching, typists, clerks, and nurses (Time).Legislative Developments in the Area of Advancement of Women in IsraelThe Committee for the Advancement of Women in the Israeli Parliament and the present women members of parliament has taken the cause of advancement of the plight of women in Israel and their efforts have been directed at mitigating the issues through legislative solutions. Their initiatives have covered a number of issues including equality at work, prevention of violence against women, general welfare, and health measures in particular. The Authority for the Advancement of Women was created in the year 1998 to coordinate the activities relating to the uplift of women. The role and functions of this body is to involve itself in the encouragement, coordination, promotion and monitoring of the activities of the government and local authorities concerning improvements in the status of women. The body is also authorized to promote legislation and also advise the government in enacting and enforcing new legislation promoting the welfare and status of women in Israel. The Authority is also involving itself in initiating research activities in the areas of women advancement and also is responsible for enhancing public awareness about the state of women through the media and education (R.Werczberger, 2001).Violence against Women in IsraelThough violence against women is a universal problem, women in Israel have been subjected to continued violence from a host of angles ranging from normal domestic violence, sexual violence, and harassment, trafficking in women for immoral acts and honor-killing or femicide. The femicide is mostly found in the Muslim sector of Israeli women. There are an estimated 200,000 women subjected to domestic violence. There are a number of legislative measures undertaken to improve the protection of the status of women in Israel. In the recent past, there have been legislations prescribing minimum punishment for sex offenders and for people involved in domestic violence. The government is evaluating a recent bill which makes the reporting of domestic violence by women mandatory. The year 1991 witnessed the enactment of Domestic Violence Prevention Law which is intended to empower family courts to issue protective orders in favor of women subjected to domestic violence. In the year 1998, Israeli government approved a Sexual Harassment Prevention Law which deals with sexual harassment classifying them as criminal offences. This Act also provides for the initiation of a civil suit against the perpetrator and his employer (R.Werczberger, 2001).Health Status of WomenDespite the fact that the country of Israel has been found to be the leading nation in providing health care facilities for its citizens, there are large differences existing in the provision of health facilities to men and women in the country. These differences reflect that the women are placed in a more disadvantageous position than men in the matter of health. For instance the National Health Insurance issued and came in to effect from the year 1995 does not cover pap smears, mammography, contraceptives, and bone density scans which are the most common health hazards for women. It is found that the leading cause of death for women in Israel is heart diseases followed by cancer. Jewish women are the most prone ones to breast cancer in the world. It is estimated that one out of eight Israeli Jewish women will contract breast cancer in their life times (R.Werczberger, 2001).Women and Armed Forces in IsraelAlthough the service in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is made compulsory for both sexes, there exists inequality in the service. The women are normally excluded from many important military professions and combat units. This prevents the chances for women to occupy senior positions making the men enjoy most of the senior ranking positions in the military. In the year 2000 the Israeli government adopted an amendment to the Security Service Law which enhances the chances for women to compete for all the military positions. However this move of the government was subjected vehement criticisms from the religious institutions and politicians (R.Werczberger, 2001).ConclusionEven though equal rights for both men and women has been enshrined in the Declaration of Independence of the country and also being supported by an extensive legislation, there are wide discriminatory practices against women in nearly all spheres of life which make the plight of women in Israel difficult (Sarah Horowitz). Despite the passing of various legislations mandating equality for women and better treatment in the society there does not seem to be any drastic improvement in the status and conditions of women in Israel. Especially in the employment for women there has not been a satisfying improvement and as a result the women are unable to find employment to support their families. Similarly building a new life for the immigrants from underdeveloped countries of the world has since been beyond reach. Several NGOs and women parliamentarians have taken the cause of improving the status of women and only time will tell about the success of their efforts. ReferencesJerusalem Post Journal ‘Women in Israel’ Article posted on 19th November 2004 as reported in Jewish Virtual Library available at<http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Society_&_Culture/women2004.html>R.Werczberger, (2001) ‘The Advancement of the Status of Women Israel 2001’ World Conference against Racism Durban August 2001 available at<http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2001/8/The%20Advancement%20of%20the%20Status%20of%20Women%20-%20Israel%2020>Sarah Horowitz ‘Empowering Women in Israel’ Jewish Agency for Israel<http://www.jewishagency.org/JewishAgency/English/Home/Donate/empowering.htm>Time ‘The Women of Israel’<http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,948046-1,00.html>