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Israel’s parliament passed a law that will designate terrorist, nationalist or racist motivations as aggravating factors in crimes of sexual harassment and sexual assault, prompting condemnation from victims’ associations and opposition lawmakers, the Times of Israel reported.
Under the new bill, fines for sexual harassment motivated by racism or hostility toward certain groups will be doubled.
The legislation was approved by a majority vote with rare bipartisan support.
Supporters of the legislation said it addresses a “growing phenomenon of nationalist terrorism” in Israel and the occupied West Bank. However, women’s rights defenders and activists dispute the existence of such a phenomenon.
Critics, including an Arab lawmaker and the organization overseeing Israel’s rape crisis centers, cautioned that the bill improperly creates a hierarchy of severity for such crimes.
Others warned that it exploits victims of sexual violence while disproportionately impacting Palestinians, the Middle East Eye noted.
The law comes in response to specific high-profile cases: Last year, an Arab teen received a lenient sentence after raping a 10-year-old Israeli child, enraging the local community.
The case was not deemed a terror attack.