Photo Credit: Courtesy
MK Aida Touma-Suleiman (Joint Arab List)

At the request of MK Aida Touma-Suleiman (Joint Arab List), chairwoman of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has instructed the Knesset Director-General Ronen Plot to make certain that, from now on, MKs, parliamentary aides and people employed by the various parliamentary groups are permitted to file sexual harassment complaints with the Knesset’s gender equality supervisor, who is in charge of enforcing the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law. They will also be permitted to take part in activities organized by the gender equality supervisor as part of the efforts to raise awareness to the prevention of sexual harassment.

Nazareth native MK Aida Touma-Suleiman founded the Arab feminist group Women Against Violence in 1992, and has been its CEO since. She joined the Hadash Communist party, later becoming editor in chief of the party’s newspaper Al-Ittihad. She was the first female member admitted to the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and co-founded the International Women’s Commission for a Just Palestinian-Israeli Peace. In June 2015 she was elected by a unanimous vote to head the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, and has vouched to cooperate with Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud).

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The Knesset employee in charge of gender equality provides counseling, information and training to workers who request her assistance. She also handles sexual harassment complaints. In the coming days, the gender equality supervisor will provide MKs, parliamentary aides and the managers of the various parliamentary groups with a detailed explanation of her role and the manner in which she handles complaints that reach her desk.

“As the Speaker of the Knesset, I attach great importance to increasing awareness of the prevention of sexual harassment and to creating a safe, comfortable and supportive working environment in the parliament building. The Knesset employee in charge of gender equality is also in charge of all matters related to the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law, as they relate to the Knesset workers,” Edelstein said.

“Since MKs, parliamentary aides and people who work for the various parliamentary groups are not defined as Knesset employees, the role of the gender equality supervisor does not formally apply to them. However, in light of the request made by MK Aida Touma-Suleiman … I thought it would be right to also allow these groups to turn to the supervisor,” the Knesset Speaker stated.

MK Touma-Suleiman said, “I welcome the Knesset Speaker’s response to my request. I was surprised to learn that only Knesset employees had someone to turn to, while female and male MKs, as well as parliamentary aides and those employed by the various parliamentary groups, did not. In this way, an improper situation was created within the very legislature that enacted the law. It is a known fact that the sexual harassment of women exists everywhere, and I hope that giving these groups the opportunity to turn to the supervisor at the Knesset will create a safe environment, clean of sexual harassment. I am pleased that the situation has been rectified by the Speaker of the Knesset, because this is an important step in increasing the personal security of women and preventing exploitation by people in positions of trust.”

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