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Concepts

 Agunah
A Hebrew word that literally means 'anchored or chained'. This is a halachic term for a Jewish woman who is "chained" to her marriage. For a divorce to be effective, Jewish law requires that a man grant his wife a get of his own free will. Without a get or a heter aguna (permission by a halachic authority based on a decision that her husband is presumed dead) no new marriage will be recognized, and any children she might have with another man would be considered illegitimate. In the past, most aguna cases were due to a husband dying without leaving clear evidence of his demise, or becoming mentally ill (insane). Today it is a term that is often used to mean a Mesuravet Get - a woman whose husband refuses or is unable to grant her a Get.

 Mesurevet Get
A Jewish woman whose husband refuses to grant her a Get (a Jewish writ of divorce). According to Jewish Law the husband must grant his wife a Get of his own free will and until he does so, the woman is chained to her marriage with no end in sight. The husband often withholds the get in order to extort money or extract a more favorable divorce settlement or to get even with his wife.

ICAR defines a mesurevet get as a Jewish woman married to a Jewish man who is faced with one of the following situations:

  1. She has been fighting her husband in the courts for a year or longer to obtain a get (Jewish bill of divorce), which her husband refuses to grant.
  2. Her husband demands certain provisions or conditions that are outside the standard bounds of the law.
  3. The established bet din ( Jewish court of law) ruled in her favour and declared that her husband must grant her a divorce, which he refuses to do.

 

Core problem
The essence of the problem is the Halachic (code of Jewish law) point of view, which grants the husband the right to refuse his wife’s request for a divorce. In its practical application, the law prevents women from ending their marriages if their husbands are missing or refuse to grant a divorce, even when justifiable grounds exist.
This situation of being trapped in an unwanted marriage is asymmetrical. The wife cannot clear herself a new path in life, remarry, or establish a new family without any newly begotten children being considered mamzerim – bastards – in the eyes of the Halacha. Furthermore, if the wife is forced to wait for an extended period of time, she faces another pressing concern: She is caught in a race against her biological clock. Her fertile years are limited, and the day will inevitably arrive when she will no longer be able to bear children. It is clear why many women are forced to relinquish rights to child support, property, and sometimes even child custody in the desperate attempt to obtain a get.

Prevention:
There is often a connection between marital abuse (in any form, including physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse or economic abuse) and the continuing abuse that takes the form of get recalcitrance. The behavioral and psychological profile of these men are similar and the get is just another instrument to control the woman.
Notwithstanding the above, it is important to emphasize that there are also many women who are refused a divorce who had lived in a harmonious and loving relationship with their spouse, but for some reason the relationship turned sour and with the break up of the marriage inevitable tensions occurred. Unfortunately, as a result of the fundamental inequality in the divorce process these tensions can turn into get recalcitrance. The husband - often due to his lawyer's advice - understands that it is worth his while to delay giving the get in order to win a better divorce settlement. This is get extortion. This is an act of violence and abuse.

Signs of an abusive relationship:  

  • Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde - full of charisma and tempting along with being hostile and cruel.
  • Externalizes problems
  • Jealous
  • Aggressive
  • Lowers the value of things, denies things, lies
  • Lowers one’s self-value
  • Tendency for depression
  • Unable to act intimately on a regular basis
  • Domineering 
  • Solves problems in a physical manner
  • Cannot relate with others
  • Has unrealistic demands
  • Compulsive
  • Consumer of alcohol or drugs
  • Unable to cope with issues
  • Manipulative
  • Shows disrespect to women
  • Breaks boundaries
  • Has a violent past
  • Has little patience for pressure
  • Possessive in an exaggerated way

(courtesy of the Religious Women's Crisis Center)