A series of disturbing events occurred in Jerusalem last week when an ultra-orthodox mother of seven was arrested for refusing a religious divorce from her husband. Police arrested the woman, who is known only by the initial G, last Tuesday and detained her for two days—during which she was handcuffed to a hospital bed for 20 hours.
The woman and her husband, who both live in Jerusalem, first separated four years ago. However, their divorce proceedings have only been active during the past four months. The couple has seven children, one of whom has a disability, according to Israeli news site Ynet.
The rabbinic court is able to impose fines or call for the arrest of individuals who fail to cooperate with divorce proceedings. G’s arrest was instigated by her failure to appear in court, which the rabbinic court interpreted as a refusal to accept a religious divorce—called a get in Jewish religious law—from her husband. However, the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women, which is now defending the woman pro bono, claims G had recently undergone surgery and sent medical confirmation to notify the court of her inability to attend.
G began to feel ill while police were transporting her to prison, so she was rerouted to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem—where she was chained to a hospital bed for approximately 20 hours. Following public backlash in response to news and images of the story, police removed G’s handcuffs on Wednesday and she was released from custody on Thursday.
Professor Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, Head of the Rackman Center, says the group is “working hard to prevent [G’s] return to jail and bring this case to a rapid conclusion.”
Although it is common in Israel for husbands to refuse to grant a religious divorce for their wives, ultra-orthodox women are generally not permitted the same level of control over their marriage, as rabbis have the ability to circumvent a wife’s response to perform a divorce without her consent.
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