Demanding that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs Open a Secured Shelter for Young Arab Women.

HCJ 9111/03, Women Against Violence, et. al. v. Minister of Labor and Social Affairs

Petition filed in 10/03 on behalf of three feminist NGOs - Women Against Violence, Assiwar, and Kian - and in Adalah's own name, against the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs asking the Supreme Court to compel the Ministry to immediately open a secured shelter for teenaged Arab young women. In 5/03, the Ministry closed the only state-funded secured shelter serving Arab young women in danger of physical abuse; those who were judged by the courts to be a threat to themselves or others; and as an alternative to incarceration for juvenile offenders. The Ministry did not initiate a comparable service option to meet the needs of young Arab women, and many of the shelter’s residents were left with nowhere to go. Adalah argued that the failure to open such a shelter violates the principle of equality on the basis of gender and national belonging. Arab women citizens of Israel form a distinct sub-group, and thus are discriminated against as young Arab women are the only group not provided with an appropriate shelter. The Ministry funds secured shelters for Jewish teenaged girls, for Jewish teenaged boys, and for Arab teenaged boys. Adalah further argued that the Ministry's policy violates the rule of law, as under Israeli law appropriate alternatives must be available to the courts for teenagers at risk. The lack of a secured shelter for young Arab women leaves them with almost no options: assignment to a shelter for Jewish youth (which operate at full capacity and have long waiting lists), imprisonment, or living on the streets, all present a range of intractable problems.

In 11/03, in response to the petition, the state noted that the Ministry published a bid to rent a building in the north for the purpose of opening a closed shelter for Arab girls, and asked the Court to postpone hearing the case for six months. After numerous delays, against most of which Adalah objected, the Court ruled that the respondents must submit a revised response about the opening of the shelter by 11/04.

In its response, the Ministry stated that work remains to be done on the building designated for the shelter, claiming that it would take until 1/05 to finish this work. The Ministry further stated that the bid for managing the center would be published shortly, and that the bid process would be completed in 2/05. Adalah replied that Ministry's response was incredible, once again stressing the ever-increasing damage being sustained by vulnerable young women as a result of the Ministry's repeated delays.

At a hearing held in 2/05, the Supreme Court issued an order nisi demanding that the Minister explain within 30 days why not to open a secure shelter for young Arab women at risk by 6/05.

Decision: During a hearing held in 9/05, the Supreme Court complied with Adalah’s demand to deliver a final decision on the petition, and ordered the state to open and operate a shelter by 1/06. The Court also imposed a fine on the Ministry in the sum of NIS 15,000. In the judgment, the Court criticized the Ministry ruling that: 'The decision comes after a long period during which the issue has been pending before the Court without being decided upon finally,' adding that, 'during this period a great deal correspondence passed between the two parties to indicate the preparedness of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MLSA) to open the shelter for vulnerable young Arab women, and even that it [the Ministry] submitted a detailed timetable to the Court regarding the opening of the shelter. However, despite this and for various reasons, the MLSA has presented to the Court on each occasions, new obstacles preventing the opening of the shelter.'

H.C. 9111/03, Women against Violence, et. al. v. Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, (petition accepted 9/05).