Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has announced that she is about to make major changes in a highly controversial State Attorney's Office guideline that appears to give women a green light to file false accusations against men, regarding violence and sexual offenses.
Addressing a protest by divorced fathers' activists outside her Tel Aviv home Saturday night, Shaked said that she has met with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on the matter and that there will be a change in the matter soon, "in the month of December."
The problematic internal guideline is Instruction 2.5 of the State Attorney's Office, which appears under the lengthy title "The Prosecution's policy in trying a prosecution witness and a victim of a sexual or violence offense who retracts, in the course of the trial, the testimony given at the police station." It was first issued in 1993, when the State Attorney's Office was headed by Dorit Beinisch, and was amended under her successor, Edna Arbel. Both women later became Supreme Court judges.
The instruction begins by explaining that section 240 of the criminal code determines that a person who gives contradictory testimony to the authorities on essential factual matters and does so with intent to deceive can be punished by up to five years in jail, and fined.
"And yet," it adds, "regarding the retraction of testimony by a victim of a sexual offense or one of violence, a careful approach should be taken and generally, the victim should not be put on trial for the conflicting testimony."
The instruction goes on to explain that often, "the victim is afraid of the defendant or feels guilt toward him, and sometimes lacks the required emotional strength to give incriminating testimony against him in court."
Therefore, it states, criminal proceedings against the witness should only be launched in "very rare" cases, and the witness should "certainly" never be arrested for investigatory purposes.
The instruction's critics note that it lumps together allegations of sexual offenses – in which the complainants are usually women – and crimes of violence, although violence within the family – including against children – is perpetrated as often by women as it is by men. In addition, it assumes that the complainant is a victim and that the defendant is thus guilty. It therefore indirectly but unmistakably relays the message that the Prosecution, or State Attorney's Office, is not to prosecute women even if they intentionally filed a false accusation of sexual or physical abuse against a man.
Representatives of the Prosecution have said openly, in the Knesset and elsewhere, that the instruction is indeed interpreted in this way.
Men's rights activists claim that it gives a green light for filing false accusations against men, of the kind that is particularly common in divorce proceedings. Some have called it the "Wife of Potiphar Clause," in a reference to the Biblical story in which Joseph is falsely charged of rape by a minister's wife and thrown into jail.
It is not known if the instruction will be completely cancelled or amended, but sources in the Justice Ministry said that the change will be a thorough one.