End to embarrassing questions at the mikveh ? Knesset Member Aliza Lavi (Yesh Atid), chairwoman of Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, is promoting a bill seeking to forbid attendants at public purification baths to question women arriving for a ritual washing about their personal life.
According to the proposed law, which was formulated in cooperation with the ITIM association, a woman will be able to immerse in a mikveh without being asked about any physical checkups she may have undergone earlier, about her menstruation dates, about using contraceptives, etc.
Any woman prevented from using the ritual bath over her refusal to answer such questions will be entitled to sue the religious council in charge of the mikveh for violation of the Protection of Privacy Law.
Interrogated in towel
"In most cases, these are instructions of the local rabbi who demands that the bath attendants question the women as a condition for their immersion," said MK Lavi. "These interrogations, when they are done without the immersing woman's explicit and conscious consent, humiliate and degrade her and violate her right to dignity and privacy.
"There are many women who are offended by the intimate questions and examinations, when they are conducted without their clear consent."
Lavi added that "these examinations are held while the women stand before the bath attendant, wearing nothing but a towel, and intrude the religious autonomy of the immersing women. The woman's personal life is none of the bath attendant's business."
The proposal further states that "in most ritual baths, when women seek to immerse not in the presence of the attendant or to bring a friend to fill in for the attendant – they are prevented from doing so.
"On matters of impurity and purity, and the immersion in the purification bath, there are many customs which vary from one community to another and from one woman and another, (but) a woman is not always allowed to act according to her mother's custom."
Rabbi Seth Farber, founder of the ITIM association, said that "it's time for the religious establishment to become aware of the rules of respecting people. The law will help thousands of women interested in immersion to do so without the privacy of their personal life being affected."