חזרה לעמוד הקודם

Decision regarding the domain sharmuta .co.il

July 17, 2012

“sharmuta” Translated from the Arabic; literally “rag”, colloquially “slut”.

In Clause 5.g of The Committee for the Review of Offensive Domain Names:
Work Procedures
, it has been determined that:

“The Committee’s decisions will be received through a majority.
The decision to reject a domain name for registration must be based on a majority vote.”

All of the Committee members have voted in favor of approving the requested domain name – the domain name sharmuta.co.il is approved.

Mr. Hank Nussbacher –
Chairperson of the Committee for the Review of Offensive Domain Names
of the Israel Internet Association

Committee member’s comments:

Prof. Michael Birnhack:

  1. The committee has the authority to approve a domain name, or to reject a domain name on the basis that the requested domain name may be damaging to public policy or considered vulgar or offensive to public sentiments, or such names which are in violation of Israeli Law, as defined in Clause 7.3 of the Domain Registration Rules.
  2. There is no legal prohibition regarding use of the word in and of itself. Use of the word within a certain context or connotation, towards a particular individual, may be interpreted as sexual harassment and thus is prohibited by law (1998), which states that sexual harassment includes “relating in a humiliating or degrading manner towards a particular person regarding his/her gender or sexuality, inclusive of his/her sexual orientation” (Clause 3(5) of the Law). However, we do not have the authority to examine the future actual use of the website, if indeed there will be such a website, which is a given and yet not known for certain. If the future content of this website, under the requested domain name, will violate the law, then those negatively affected by the website’s content can consider the legal options at their disposal. Our only authority here and now is regarding the registration of the domain name itself, and nothing else.
  3. The previous request (1/12) dealt with an explicit name, and was examined under the category of “offensive to public sentiment”. The current request, using the word “sharmuta” (slut) in Latin letters, falls under the category of “vulgar expressions”, and as such, may fall under the category of “offensive to public sentiment”.
  4. According to “Wikimilon” (the Hebrew version of Wiktionary), the word “sharmuta”, for which the current request is transliterated to Latin characters, means “rag” in Arabic, and it is usually used as a pejorative, and its meaning is a woman who has sexual relations with many men. The Arabic expression has become widely accepted into Israeli (Hebrew) slang, and is also used as an insult. To the best of my knowledge, the word does not have an alternative meaning in other languages.
  5. Therefore, at first glance, the word “sharmuta” is a vulgar word, and since it carries a negative connotation regarding women (for example, it attaches a certain stigma to women having multiple sex partners, but not the situation in reverse, meaning this term is not used for men with multiple sex partners). Therefore, there is some offense towards a particular group.
  6. Despite this, there may be legitimate uses of the expression. Occasionally, a derogatory name is adopted by the object of the insult, in an attempt to nullify or oppose the insult’s negative intent. A word possessing a negative connotation evolves into an expression of empowerment for the would-be victims of such slander, as counter-attack against the perpetrator (i.e., reappropriation). Lately we have been witness to such an attempt – wherein there is a process involving the transformation of the derogatory term “sharmuta” into an empowering expression, for example the “Slut Walk”, a social movement against sexual harassment and sexual violence of women, which has been manifested via demonstrations. It should be stated in relation to this that the word “sharmuta” is a translation of the word “slut”, hence the social movement “Mitz-ad Ha Sharmutot”, or – the “Slut Walk”.
  7. The Committee’s regulations determine that the Committee’s examination will not take into account the identity of the domain name holder nor the intended use of the domain name (Clause 5d of the Committee Regulations). It appears that these regulations were intended to prevent the Committee from taking into account the content of the expression that will appear in the website of the aforementioned domain, a matter which is not under the Committee’s authority (content appearing on a website may be offensive even when the domain name is legitimate). This regulation raises a conundrum regarding the domain name itself: Is the abovementioned domain name desired as a pejorative, for the purpose of degradation or as an insult towards a particular sector of the population, or for the purpose of transforming offensive terminology into an empowering statement adopted by the would-be injured party? As stated previously, we must examine the domain name in and of itself.
  8. I am certain that in this instance, the scales tip towards approval of the domain name: on the one hand, the word is often used in the derogative form, and therefore is considered a vulgarity. On the other hand, others may use this term for reappropriation purposes, and thus, self-empowerment. Use of this term as a pejorative, if this is the case, is within the framework of ‘free speech’.
  9. Yes, I join the arguments presented by the Committee member Boaz Okon, regarding the limited offensiveness due to the domain name being in Latin letters.
  10. Under this circumstance, I am of the opinion that the requested domain name is debatable, and therefore should be approved by the Committee.

Boaz Okon, Judge (Ret.):

I agree with Michael’s opinion in that, had the term been written in Hebrew, there might have been a need to enforce stricter boundaries due to the term’s level of offensiveness. I am of the opinion that registering the domain name in Latin letters somewhat neutralizes the term in its natural form. Albeit this is a formal claim, but it is based on fundamental logic. Vulgar words or pejoratives may change their form (take, for example, use of the word “Kussit” (meaning ‘hottie’, but deriving from the Arabic slang “kuss”, female genitalia) which in the past would have been just cause for prosecution).  We will have great difficulty functioning if we act according to the dictionary definition of every term, and we will be unable to fulfill our responsibilities if we revert to Victorian Conservatism. Therefore, the metamorphosis that this term undergoes somewhat removes its vulgarity, and additionally, registering such a name does not insinuate a particular sector of society (as in the case of Discussion 3/12 “all women are sluts”) nor is the term directed towards a particular individual or group (“you are a slut”, “all soldier women are sluts”). I doubt the term would be discredited even if it was used to deliberately insult someone, although we have not reached this stage yet.

Yochi Brandeis

The (domain) name is vulgar and repulsive, but I see no way to force people to be sensitive and gentle (I wish it were possible…). If that’s what they want, let them enjoy it!

Hank Nussbacher:

I am of the opinion that if we begin rejecting vulgar words – we will have a very long list to which we will never see an end. Since the domain name is not directed towards a particular individual or group, I support its approval.

Deliberation Results:

All Committee members support reception of the request. As stated above, and according to the regulations that have been determined, the request for domain name “sharmuta.co.il” is approved.

Committee Decision