A prostitute in Israel waiting for a client. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Tiberias brothel operating near Lake Kinneret was shut down by police Wednesday for a litany of tax, zoning and health violations.
The move follows a joint investigation carried out by police with the Tiberias Tax Authority, Agriculture Ministry, Israel Electric Company and Planning and Building Committee, police said.
While prostitution in Israel is legal, pimping and brothels remain outside the law. New legislation proposing to prosecute patrons of the sex trade is currently making its way through the Knesset.
In a Thursday statement, police said the unidentified brothel owner exploited the women working there, while evading taxes, illegally erecting structures and generally compromising the safety of community residents.
“The negative effects of brothels operating illegally in residential areas include the risk of harm to health and the quality of life of the residents, the involvement of criminal elements, and the exploitation and physical and mental abuse of the [prostitutes],” police said.
During the overnight operation, the owner was arrested, three young women – including one minor and two 18-year-olds – were detained for questioning, and nearly NIS 10,000 in cash was seized. Additionally, all invoices and accounting books were confiscated after it was determined that the owner was not reporting income or paying taxes.
“The girls were detained for interrogation, and the minor was transferred to a social worker on behalf of Welfare Services,” police said. “The owner, who is in his 60s, was arrested and this morning he will be brought before a hearing to extend his detention.”
In May 2016, the State Prosecutor’s Office announced that it will cease prosecuting brothels as long as they are owned and operated by the women who work in them.
The decision, made under the auspices of the Justice Ministry, was announced in light of an ongoing case being litigated in the Tel Aviv civil court. The judge overseeing the case, Itay Harmelin, said in response that the decision would help “get working women off the streets” and shield them from violent pimps and police harassment.
However, little political support exists for further expanding the legal parameters concerning the “oldest profession in the world,” and women’s rights organizations have come out against the plan.