Paying for sex or utilizing any type of sexual services will soon become a
criminal offense after a bill proposed by MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) was approved
Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.
The bill, which was
also supported by a large number of Knesset members from across the political
spectrum, will be brought to a vote in the plenum on Wednesday and is likely to
pass without any hitches now that it has full government backing.
a new reality in Israel,” declared Zuaretz, adding that she felt confident that
the relevant authorities would take the new legislation seriously, including
full enforcement by the police.
Zuaretz described the legislation as a
central element in a series of actions designed to empower “social change with
regards to prostitution and human trafficking,” which in recent years has turned
into a multi-million dollar industry involving thousands of
“This law aims to shift the responsibility for the offense
to customers, who not only manufacture the demand for prostitution but also fuel
the wheels of the sex industry,” continued the MK, who initiated the legislation
as part of her position as Chairwoman of the Knesset Sub-Committee for Human
She added that government backing of such a law showed
“moral and valuable steps of the first order.”
“I truly thank the
ministers who supported this legislation, especially Ministers [Limor] Livnat
and [Ya’akov] Neeman,” said Zuaretz, also commending the work of lawyer Rachel
Gershuni, the country’s national coordinator for human trafficking, who
researched the issue on behalf of the Justice Ministry.
Zuaretz also said
that the successful passage of her legislation was in part due to the support it
received from dedicated activists, who not only organized a series of rallies
worldwide to raise awareness of the issue but who also worked to lobby
parliamentarians and ministers on the issue.
“Today’s vote in the
Ministerial Committee to approve legislation criminalizing the purchase of
sexual services is a victory for all who seek to free Israel from the evils of
sex trafficking and the degradation of women and children,” commented Levi
Lauer, Director and Founder of social action organization Atzum, which supported
the legislation via its Task Force for Human Trafficking (TFHT).
message is clear: human bodies are no longer for sale in an enlightened society;
trafficking in sexual services and prostitution are no longer legitimate
enterprises on our streets; clients who rape sex slaves and make women and
children the victims of their perverse power are now criminals,” he
Lauer said, however, that the battle was not yet over and that
all those involved need to “remain zealous in our insistence for enforcement and
for the judicial agencies to do all in their power to arrest, prosecute and
punish the pimps and traffickers - and now the clients, who have for far too
long, turned too many of our streets and neighborhoods into comfortable
environments for brothels.”
The legislation, which was also supported by
Tel Aviv law firm Kabiri-Nevo-Keidar, was originally set in motion by new Meretz
faction leader MK Zahava Gal-On.
Gal-On welcomed the government’s
approval of the law, saying it would “lead the struggle against the
circumstances that create a demand for prostitution and lead to the serious
phenomena of drug addiction, degradation of women, violence, coercion and
control of women within Israel's sex industry.”
The bill is based on a
similar series of laws that were first passed in Sweden in 1999 and are now
known as the “Nordic model.” Most Western countries have adopted this set of
It is hoped that the new law will cause significant damage
to Israel’s burgeoning sex industry and help to reduce the high levels of human
trafficking and sexual slavery here.
Although there are no official
figures, it is estimated that there are currently more than 15,000 individuals
working in the prostitution industry in Israel, 5,000 of whom are minors. Israel
has been a destination country for more than 25,000 victims of human trafficking
since the 1990s.
Research undertaken by TFHT suggests that many of
Israel's prostitutes and sex slaves are controlled by pimps and some experience
violence at the hands of their clients. The clients come from every segment of
society and every ethnic, religious and social-economic stratum.