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Israeli ministers OK regulation to fight polygamy among Bedouin

Each man will be allocated land for maintaining one household only.

Bedouin in the Negev Desert near Arad, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo by Anat Hermony/Flash90.
Bedouin in the Negev Desert near Arad, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo by Anat Hermony/Flash90.

Israeli Cabinet members this week approved a rule to fight polygamy among Bedouin through a change to the way land is allocated.

The Ministerial Committee on Legalizing the Settlement and the Economic Development of the Bedouin Sector on Monday will restrict the number of land grants given to Bedouin men to one unit each.

Until now, Bedouin men who maintained more than one household, meaning they were married to more than one woman, could negotiate for additional land and large financial grants, which acted as an indirect incentive for polygamy.

The new regulation will take effect immediately.

Minister for Social Equality Amichai Chikli welcomed the rule change.

“From the day I took office as the head of, among other things, the Bedouin Authority, I made the goal of the government’s fight against the phenomenon of polygamy a top priority,” he said.

“The current move, which I had the privilege of jointly leading with Minister [of Justice Yariv] Levin, will negate one of the significant incentives for the crime of polygamy and strengthen the protection of women and children,” Chikli added.

Levin said the new rule eliminates “the significant economic incentive of receiving plots according to the ‘mother’s household’ as it was until now, and moving to an equal allocation according to the father’s household.

“This is another and important pillar in the fight against the phenomenon of polygamy and its negative consequences, which combines with other moves promoted by the Ministry of Justice and already approved by the Ministerial Committee [for Legislation]. We will continue to act together with determination to correct this grave social injustice,” Levin said.

Regavim, an Israel NGO that has been vocal in bringing attention to the problem of Bedouin polygamy, welcomed the decision.

“The State of Israel is stopping the insane policy of giving free plots to every woman, a policy that encouraged Bedouin men to marry more and more women in order to gain land, and this is why we see a women-trafficking industry in Lod, Ramla, Haifa and Judea and Samaria,” the group said.

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