I have been told that the Beth Din of America operates on the principle that if one of the parties wants a divorce, for whatever reason, and there is no chance for reconciliation, then the Beit Din will instruct the other spouse to comply. But this is not how many other batei din operate. We have to be honest and acknowledge that the problem many women face is not because the dayanim are cruel or anti-women, but that it is Jewish law itself, or rather an interpretation of Jewish law, that is preventing them from receiving their divorces.
I feel it is necessary to stress this since we can now better appreciate why certain rabbis have attempted to find solutions within Jewish law to the contemporary agunah problem. Many on the right don’t see why this is necessary and why batei din cannot just follow Jewish law as it has operated until now instead of looking for “solutions”. These people might not realize the difficult situation this puts women in, a situation that might have been tolerable years ago but for more and more Orthodox Jews that is no longer the case. On the other hand, many on the left think that it is a simple matter to solve the agunah problem, and that it is just cruel and insensitive rabbis preventing this. This too is a distortion as the rabbis’ hands are often tied by halakhah, and this remains the case no matter how much of a “rabbinic will” they have.
Marc B. Shapiro, “The Agunah Problem, Part 1; Incarceration and Free Speech”, The Seforim Blog (19 January 2016) [http://seforim.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-agunah-problem-part-1-incarceration.html]