Lap dances now unlawful, State attorney warns of ‘slippery slope’

“Club owners say forbidding lap dances would be wrong because that’s how they make their money,” head of an anti-sex work NGO said, “two years ago they said the same about sex work.”

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April 3, 2019 18:45
3 minute read.
A woman wears spiked stilettos as she practises a pole dancing move during an International Women's

A woman wears spiked stilettos as she practises a pole dancing move during an International Women's Day event . (photo credit: JASON REED/REUTERS)

 
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Lap dancing should be regarded as a form of sex work and those who own properties where they are conducted will be prosecuted as pimps, the State Attorney ruled on Tuesday.

Careful to note that stripping in and of itself is legal, the decision speaks of a "slippery slope" in which stripping, which is legal, leads to sex work in back rooms – which is illegal.

Lap dances, in which strippers grind their body against that of a paying client and often allow themselves to be groped for the duration of the “dance,” are now regarded as sex work and ergo it is illegal for club owners to benefit from it, as that is pimping.

Sex work has been, and still is, legal in the State of Israel with the law focusing on pimping, publishing sex services and running brothels as illegal activities which are punishable by law. 

In a recent legislation, inspired by the Nordic Model which incriminates those who employ sex workers as well as pimps, the stand against sex work became tougher.

While engaging in sex work is not illegal, the new laws make it illegal to hire sex workers.

The recent ruling places lap dancing in the category of sex work. 

The new laws are meant to be joined with extra funding for rehabilitation programs aimed at sex workers who engage in the work to make ends meet and do not currently have other means of support.

In films like the 1990 Pretty Woman and the 1996 Girl 6, women who engage in sex work are presented as having at least some control and autonomy over their lives, however, real sex workers usually begin their path at age 13, CEO of the NGO Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution Nitzan Kahana told the Jerusalem Post.

“Ninety percent of the women had been subjected to ongoing sexual abuse,” she added.


Some in the sex work industry, who usually write or speak on the condition of anonymity, claim that people have a right to choose what to do with their bodies, which outweighs the right of the state to intervene. They also argue that the police often treat the women in worse ways than the patrons or the club owners.

Women who work as strippers in a Tel Aviv protest calling for the law to allow them to go on working, they wear masks to keep their identity a secret /  @heidad litman, originally published in the Facebook group When She Works

In a protest held in Tel Aviv in 2018, strippers wearing masks carried banners saying, “let me dance in peace” and “It looks like Radical Feminism means that a woman is only free to do what Radical Feminism tells her to do.”

“There might be a small group of women who chose this work,” Kahana told the Post. “But that does not mean we will stop fighting for the next generation, to prevent them being exploited as prostitutes.”

Not only do many sex workers start off as teenagers, they are also at times lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender teens who were kicked out of their homes by their own families.

Kahana is clear that “those who are affected by this law are not the women, they are the club owners.”

She added that after two and half years of working with the police, who at times would arrest women and take them to the station in their underwear, the new rules include the police have a female social worker at hand to offer the women advice and help if they choose to accept it.        

“The women are victims,” she said, “the police is not meant to deal with them at all.”

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