Sociological perspectives on the origins of child abuse legislation in Israel

Malka Ajzenstadt, Gabriel Cavaglion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the historical background and the social processes that have changed the perception of child abuse in Israel from almost complete lack of awareness to concern and formal societal reaction during the 1990s. The recent emergence of child abuse as a social problem and the consequent actions of scrutiny and surveillance through legislation, law enforcement, punishment and educational prevention is set within the cultural milieu of the past two decades. This sociological analysis shows that there was a gradual transition from a private condition to a public “social problem”. The social actors involved in this process primarily included social workers, professional educators, academics, the daily press, members of Israel's Parliament and law enforcement agents. For various scholars and professionals, the incident that triggered awareness and concern about child abuse in general and child sexual abuse in particular was the tragic death of young Moran Denemias in 1989. However, in our paper we posit that this single tragic incident in itself did not prompt officials or the general public to view it as part of a larger problem. The general political tendency to overreact to the emerging issue of abuse, and the rapidity with which the Law for the Prevention of Abuse of Minors and Helpless Persons was passed at the end of the 1980s can be explained by a general moral sentiment that matured decades earlier.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-196
Number of pages28
JournalIsrael Law Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

RAMBI publications

  • Law -- Israel
  • Children -- Israel -- Social conditions
  • Teenagers -- Israel -- Social conditions
  • Deviant behavior -- Israel
  • Crime -- Israel
  • Criminals -- Israel


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