The advertisement of prostitution services in newspapers is illegal and must be stopped immediately, according to the Task Force on Human Trafficking.
Spokeswoman Roni Aloni-Sadovnik told The Jerusalem Post Monday that an change in the law was urgently needed to break a powerful link in the chain of human trafficking.
"Everyday, newspapers nationwide carry full-page advertisements promoting these illicit services and furthering the plight of women enslaved in the prostitution business," said Aloni-Sadovnik. She said that while the ads might only list "erotic conversations, everyone knows what they really mean."
Aloni-Sadovnik said that the task force, which is a project of the nonprofit organization Atzum - Justice Works, once attempted to put a stop to the practice by prosecuting three newspapers in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court. The court ruled that the newspapers had illegally published prostitution solicitation ads but let them off with a NIS 170,000 fine. This meant it remained financially worthwhile for the papers to continue running the ads, Aloni-Sadovnik said.
"The law is not completely clear about the advertising of prostitutes, and the newspapers are just taking advantage of a loophole," she said. She was referring to Section 205c of the Penal Code, which reads: "One who publishes a prostitution-soliciting ad is liable to six months in prison." However, the ads don't explicitly mention prostitution.
A spokesman at the Ministry of Communications said that it had no policy regarding media advertising.
Also on Monday, the Task Force on Human Trafficking called on the new government-in-formation to honor its pre-election pledge to put an end to the enslavement of woman by the prostitution industry.
"On the eve of the Festival of Freedom, both prime minister elect Ehud Olmert and [Labor Party chairman] Amir Peretz are in a powerful position to rid Israel of the white slave trade during 2006," said Aloni-Sadovnik.
The task force also demanded that the new government establish a new organization to fight trafficking in women, along the lines of the Anti-Drug Authority. It asked that NIS 10 million in funding be budgeted for such an authority, to provide a central address for women who are being abused.
The task force also asked the government to permanently close the passageways from Egypt that are used to smuggle many women into Israel.
Between 3,000 and 5,000 women have been brought into the country to work as prostitutes during the past four years, according to a report released by the Knesset subcommittee on Trafficking in Women in 2005.
According to the report, the women, who are mostly from the former Soviet Union, are sold at auctions for as much as $10,000 each and forced to work up to 18 hours a day. The women earn an average of 3 percent of the money they bring in from prostitution and many are raped and beaten.