Israel to become 10th country to criminalize hiring prostitutes

If the law passes, it will make Israel the 10th country to institute what is called the “Nordic Model” of combatting abuse of sex workers.

December 25, 2018 15:40
1 minute read.
Knesset Members pose to mark the passing of a new law criminalizing prostitution

Knesset Members pose to mark the passing of a new law criminalizing prostitution on Tuesday, December 25, 2018. (photo credit: KNESSET)


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The Knesset is set to pass a landmark law against prostitution making hiring sex workers a crime, rather than the work itself, after a committee authorized it for a second and third reading.

The new law will make Israel the 10th country to institute what is called the “Nordic Model” of combating human trafficking and prostitution. The law is scheduled to a final vote next week, at the last minute before the Knesset breaks for the early election.

There are currently 14,000 people involved in sex work in Israel, including 3,000 minors, according to the Welfare Ministry, and 76% would leave sex work if they could. The average lifespan of a prostitute in Israel is 46 years.

When the law goes into effect, a first-time offender will be fined NIS 2,000 for hiring or attempting to hire a prostitute and NIS 4,000 for further offenses. It also allows for pressing charges and fining the offender up to NIS 75,300. It offers the Justice Ministry the option of instituting other punishments, such as “John Schools,” meant to educate those who paid for sex.

The law does not only make frequenting prostitutes a criminal offense, it seeks to help people leave sex work and find other careers. It budgets NIS 90 million over the next three years for the rehabilitation of prostitutes.

Knesset Subcommittee to Combat Trafficking of Women and Prostitution head, Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), said the bill includes “budgets for rehabilitation, accompanying research, and help in finding employment are inseparable parts of implementing the law. With every day that passes [without the new law], more women are hurt.”

The law will only go into effect 18 months after it is passed to allow for the establishment of a rehabilitation system for prostitutes, along with public advertising and education about the new law and training for police.

This law implements the “Nordic Model,” first adopted in Sweden in 1999. In recent years, others passed similar laws, including Ireland, France, Canada, Norway and some states in the US.

According to the Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution, the model has been proven to reduce the demand for prostitution, and as a result lower the number of people who become sex workers and significantly reduce human trafficking.

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