Knesset Committee on the Status of Women Chairman (Yesh Atid) Aliza Lavie and Yafit Kariv went to battle with officials of the Justice Ministry over a new "Sex Tape Bill" designed to impose a greater stigma and invoke harsher punishments on persons who disseminate nude or sexual photos or videos without permission.

The legislation, which has passed a first reading, would not only make such an offense punishable by five years in prison, which can already be done under Israel's privacy laws, but would specifically define such acts as a form of sexual harassment under the Sexual Harassment Law.

Supporters, such as Lavie, Kariv, and a number of organizations and academics present at the hearing, said that specifically designating dissemination of nude or sexual photos or videos without permission as sexual harassment would place a much greater stigma on potential offenders, which would increase deterrence.

They added that also having two laws on the books might increase the chance of courts giving offenders the maximum five year sentence, and not a lighter sentence.

Opposing the new bill, the Justice Ministry representatives said that while they agreed that the new issues were serious, the new bill was unnecessary from a legal perspective.

They said that the current law on privacy provides the same five year prison sentence that the new bill is proposing and that having a second law on the same issue will only be confusing.

A prosecutor from the Justice Ministry went as far as to say that some language in the proposed bill was so imprecise as to make it even less effective than the current privacy law is.

They added that all that was necessary was better implementation of the current law and possibly amending the current law to better define some of the new issues.

Interior Ministry representatives and police representatives supported the Justice Ministry position, while IDF representatives merely observed and did not state a position.

Lavie and Kariv appeared angry with this response, declaring the government officials indifferent to the size of the "new phenomena" in a "fast changing world."

They said that the new phenomena of disseminating the videos was a huge new problem whose scope was still unclear and required a much stronger response.

They specifically upbraided the police about complaints from women-victims that the police currently treat such cases as mere minor invasion of privacy crimes, whereas they should be treated as sexual assaults.

Lavie also blasted the country's judges as not viewing the issue with enough severity, including many cases where judges judges have made inappropriate sexually charged comments.

She added that, "if you think you can trust the current judges" in these cases, "you are not facing reality."

By the end of the hearing, Lavie declared that most likely she would consult with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and move forward with a vote on the new bill over the ministry officials' objections since she viewed them as not getting the message.

She said, "there is a big gap between me and Livni" on one side and "the bureaucratic level of the justice ministry" on the other side.

Livni's spokesman denied such a gap, but did not go into detail about defining her position. 

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