A Jerusalem Family Court decision made headlines recently when the court (Judge D. Tepperberg) awarded damages to a young Muslim woman who was divorced in a most unusual way; the couple separated while she was pregnant with their first child, and at some point, her husband sent a text message to her mother and brother in which he wrote: “With all the sorrow, your daughter is divorced, because I am engaged. Thanks.”
Here’s the decision, in Hebrew:
פיצוי גירושין SMS
For an illustration of what something like that might look like, take a peek.
The Sharia (Islamic Law) Court, which has jurisdiction over marriages and divorces for Muslims in Israel, ruled that, despite the fact that the husband later claimed he was only trying to intimidate the wife into coming back to him, and that he neither desired nor intended to divorce her, it was a valid divorce.
I’m far from an expert on the subject, but apparently in Islam, it’s fairly easy to divorce one’s wife.
Here’s a link to an academic article on the subject, but there’s plenty out there on the internet for anyone interested in pursuing this further.
The judge’s decision to award damages was not really a precedent, I think that the unusual circumstances were what made this a headliner.
Article 181 of the Israeli Criminal Code makes it a criminal offense to divorce a woman against her will when there is no ruling from the secular or religious court with jurisdiction ordering the woman to accept the divorce. The criminal legislation was necessary to deter Jewish men from receiving something called a “Dispensation of 100 Rabbis” to take an additional wife in cases where a woman is ill or unwilling to accept a divorce, as well as to protect Muslim woman from being divorced unilaterally.
I was impressed with the judge’s sensitivity in understanding what being divorced would mean for this young Muslim woman with a baby, and no professional training. As difficult as it is to be divorced, I have often been amazed by the strength of character and determination of some of the young Muslim women I represented, who have to overcome incredible obstacles to make their way in the world as a divorced woman.