What is an Agunah? Agunah, translated as “anchored/chained” in English, is a term used to describe a Jewish woman who is stuck in her religious marriage, because her husband refuses to grant her the needed divorce document, known as a get. According to Jewish law, a man must give his wife this in order to finalize a divorce.
Unfortunately, there are cases where a man refuses to grant this request, leaving the woman chained to her marriage. This has both short and long term consequences, including emotional trauma, the inability to enter a new religious marriage, and the inability to bear a religiously legitimate child.
Today, the refusal to grant a wife a get is considered emotional abuse and is a serious topic in religious circles. Many organizations have been established to support women who find themselves stuck in marriage and create Jewish prenuptial agreements to avoid any future get refusals.
About Agunah Day:
In 1990, Agunah Day was established by ICAR (International Coalition for Agunah Rights). The day was created to bring attention to the women who are suffering from being stuck in a marriage and place pressure on their husbands to grant a religious divorce. The day on the Jewish calendar chosen for Agunah Day is the 13th day of Adar, which coincides with the traditional Fast of Esther.
Why the Fast of Esther?
The Fast of Esther commemorates a period in ancient Persia when Jews fasted as a form of prayer for redemption from the threat of genocide. Esther, the wife of the Persian king, was forced to live in fear as she was Jewish. The following day, Purim, celebrates the salvation that did come on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar, when our oppressor, Haman, was killed.
The reason this day was chosen as Agunah Day is to raise awareness to the fact that there are many women living in fear, waiting for their eventual salvation.