The Labor and Conservative parties, Liberal Democrats, and Independent politicians joined forces for a proposal that could provide optimism to Jewish women in the United Kingdom.
They presented a motion for updating the Domestic Abuse Bill to help any woman whose husband refuses her a divorce under Jewish Law, thus proffering hope to approximately 30 women in the UK currently being denied a 'Get' by their husbands.
A ‘Get’ "is a divorce under halacha (Jewish law), and can only be given by a husband to a wife." It also applies to the paper document that officially gives a get. For the wife to obtain the Get, the husband must present the paper to his wife. The Get contains an essential declaration: "You are hereby permitted to all men," thereby freeing the wife from marriage and free to marry another.
Members of the House of Lords, the upper house of the Parliament in the United Kingdom, proposed amendments to protect victims of Get refusal. The members speaking were Tory Baroness Ros Altmann, Labourite Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn, Baroness Ruth Deech, and Lord Monroe Palmer of the Liberal Democrats.
The members asked for the Domestic Abuse Bill to recognize the concerns of Get refusal. The refusal prevents the wife from marrying again under Orthodox Law until they obtain a 'Get' from their husband. If he refuses, the wife will be known as an 'Agunah.' Agunah refers to the wife becoming chained, prevented from remarrying, or having children in harmony with her Orthodox beliefs. Currently, Jewish Law can override the wife's choice to maintain the marriage by refusing to accept a Get when granted. The law does not provide an override to the husband's choice.
Baroness Altmann requested the government consider implementing the proposed amendments for the UK's legal framework and facilitate support for the victims of Get refusal.
Lord Mendelsohn highlighted the situation where a woman gave £150,000 to her ex-husband in exchange for her Get, which was "less than that awarded by the civil court and being forced to sign a document relinquishing any ownership of the joint properties. She was encouraged by the Beth Din to accept the offer as a legitimate way to secure her Get, but she did not choose to do so."
"A third woman's husband was being prosecuted for the sexual abuse of children. In trying to secure her Get, she was asked … to lie to the police and tell them that the accusations had been fabricated so that she could be given her religious divorce. Additional financial sums were requested. The husband made further demands that were impossible for the wife to fulfill."
At this time, nearly 30 women in the UK suffer from manipulation of 'Get refusal,' and they receive support from the Jewish Women's Aid (JWA) charity. A minimum of 15 women are in the process of directly struggling for a get (Jewish divorce) from their husband. The others stated that they gave up on the divorce proceedings because they were threatened with 'Get refusal.'