Can Ben Gvir improve on the electronic monitoring bill he voted down?
Fury raged in the plenum on 22 March as women called out “shame” and wove their hands in the air holding aloft electronic shackles during Ben Gvir’s speech in the Knesset regarding the opposition bill to institute electronic monitoring of those accused of domestic violence. The bill failed to pass the preliminary reading and Ben Gvir was blamed for this.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid tweeted:
“Women will die because of this government. Women will be beaten because of this government. The coalition overturned the electronic handcuff law that would have saved the lives of women victims of violence. Because they are not interested in women, they are only interested in politics.”
נשים ימותו בגלל הממשלה הזו. נשים יוכו בגלל הממשלה הזו. הקואליציה הפילה את חוק האיזוק האלקטרוני שהיה מציל חיי נשים נפגעות אלימות. כי לא מעניין אותם נשים, מעניין אותם רק פוליטיקה.
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) March 22, 2023
Why will women die, according to Lapid, because this law was voted down? Because of the phenomenon called separation assault — the stalking, harassing, and continuing violence committed by former partners who refuse to accept the end of the relationship. The restraining orders that are meant to protect women from separation assault were shown to be so easily violated that, according to some studies, up to one-quarter of the women supposedly protected risk actually ending up in the morgue. Electronic monitoring devices ostensibly improve this statistic.
What Lapid and the others neglected to say was that the opposition bill was first tabled only in 2021 and it was the only one on this topic that has ever been tabled by anyone. This makes it hard to honestly claim that Yesh Atid demonstrated any more interest than Likud and other members of the coalition regarding the welfare of women at risk since monitoring devices in domestic violence cases have been used in the United States for about 20 years and in some other countries for at least a decade.
Ben Gvir says that within a month he will table a bill that improves upon the one voted down last week and two specific points were reported. Are these really an improvement on the opposition bill?
For one thing, I hope the law will be more clearly written. For example, there is a very problematic paragraph in the opposition bill. It has the right idea but is so poorly written (even a native Hebrew-speaking friend misunderstood it) that I hope the same idea is in Ben Gvir’s bill but better explained. It is this:
בצו הגנה בתנאי פיקוח טכנולוגי כאמור בסעיף קטן (א) רשאי בית המשפט להורות, ובצו הגנה בתנאי פיקוח טכנולוגי כאמור בסעיף קטן (ב) יורה בית המשפט, על שימוש באמצעי הפיקוח הטכנולוגי גם כלפי בן המשפחה שלהגנתו ניתן הצו, ובלבד שניתנה הסכמתו של בן המשפחה לשימוש כאמור, לרבות הסכמתו לניטור מקום הימצאו, לאחר שקיבל הסבר על אמצעי הפיקוח ויעילותו ואיסוף המידע על אודותיו.
I understood it to mean that the victim had to give consent for the monitoring of the accused but what it means is that the victim gives permission for her own phone to be tracked so that the monitors can notify her and him when he inadvertently gets too close in a location that is not part of her regular behaviour so he could not have anticipated it and, therefore, there is no suspicion of intention to harass her but he can be told to leave. This was explained to me by a feminist lawyer but it should be clearer to anyone who reads the law.
According to how he was quoted in the press, Ben Gvir’s version has a problematic section in that it would allow for electronic monitoring only after one conviction in order to prevent false filings against innocent men. In other words, the mere filing of a complaint would not be enough to bring on preventative measures.
However, the mere filing of a complaint may render a violent man even more dangerous and this has sent many women and their children into shelters, effectively imprisoning them rather than the alleged offender. Furthermore, Ben Gvir should know that electronic monitoring has been used in the USA and Australia since the 1990s during the pre-trial period to keep the victim safe while the accused is in the community awaiting trial.
In Ben Gvir’s version, the court would be required to send the alleged offender for a risk assessment whereas the opposition bill suggested that the court could send him for a risk assessment.
A risk assessment at the time a complaint is filed is called for because it helps inform the judges of aspects they need to consider when hearing the case. It may seem an infringement of privacy rights to conduct a risk assessment before the accused has been convicted; however, if a man is shown to be at low risk of noncompliance with court orders and for reoffending, he will not be subject to the heavy punitive measures taken against someone showing high risk. It is to his advantage to be so categorized. (Perhaps the law can include sanctions against the woman who files false charges, although under-reporting is a much greater problem than false reporting.)
We have to wait to see Ben Gvir’s version of the electronic monitoring law after he presents it to the Knesset.
Given research in other countries, many things need to be taken into consideration for monitoring to be successful and for women and society not to be given a false sense of security. For example: (1) Are there sufficient resources to enforce violations? If not, the tagging device may prove to be no more effective than the current piece of paper on which the restraining order is printed. (2) Is the equipment sufficiently high quality to ensure a low technological failure rate or problems with recharging? (3) Monitoring must be coordinated with the prevention of other means of harassing victims, sending a proxy, for example. (4) Monitoring must be coordinated with specialized rehabilitation and therapy for violent partners as otherwise, once the device is removed, the victim is likely to be almost equally at risk as before.
While the bill that was voted down last week did include the creation of a specialized unit for supplying the devices and tracking the wearers — related to point (1) above, points (3) and (4) did not find any expression in the opposition bill. We can only hope that Ben Gvir’s bill takes them and other issues discussed in the domestic violence literature into account.
Feature Image Credit: Fluffy89502, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons