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Israel: Prevention of Sexual Harassment by Health Providers and by Religious Clerics

(July 7, 2010) On July 5, 2010, the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) passed a law amending the 1998 Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law. The original law stated that its objective was “to prohibit sexual harassment in order to protect the dignity of the person, his liberty and privacy, and to promote gender-based equality.” (Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law, 5758-1998, §1, SEFER HA-HUKIM, No. 1661, at 166.) The original law defined, among other situations, circumstances in which unequal power relations existed between the harasser and the harassed person that might make an objection to unwelcome behavior difficult, and might therefore qualify as prohibited harassment. Among such circumstances the original law included situations involving minors, helpless persons, patients undergoing mental health or health treatment, and students who have reached the age of majority in both high school and post-high school educational institutions. (Id.) The July 5, 2010, amendment expanded the definition of harassment in situations where the harassed person did not express an objection, to include the following:

  1. In lieu of situations limited to those involving “a patient in the course of mental or medical treatment – taking advantage of the dependence of the patient on the care giver,” the Law now prohibits unwelcome behavior related to “mental, health, medical, or para-medical” treatment. (Prevention of Sexual Harassment (Amendment No. 6) Law, 5770-2010, §1(2), the Knesset website, (last visited July 6, 2010).

The amendment further provides that mental treatment should be defined in accordance with the definition provided by section 347a of the Penal Law. The Penal Law defines mental treatment as “care that is provided to assist a person who suffers from distress, dysfunction, illness, or another problem that originates from an emotional or mental cause.” (The Penal Law, 5737-1977, Laws of the State of Israel (Special Volume) 1977, as amended, §347a).

  1. Situations “involving a relationship of authority or dependence in the course of receiving instruction from or consulting a religious cleric or an imposter who pretends to be a religious cleric or a person known or presenting himself as having special spiritual gifts.” (Knesset website, supra, §1(4).)

(Prevention of Sexual Harassment (Amendment No. 6) Law, 5770-2010, the Knesset website,, & Prevention of Sexual Harassment (Amendment No. 6) (Relationship of Authority and Dependence- Expansion) Bill, 5770-2010, (both last visited July 6, 2010).)