Aliza Lavie (left) conducts a meeting of the Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women and Prostitution, as MK Tamar Zandberg (right) looks on.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Customers of prostitution would be fined NIS 1,500 to 3,000, according to a bill sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and advanced Sunday by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation that she heads.
Last year, the ministers advanced a law making paying for a prostitute’s services illegal in Israel. That bill also sought to establish a national plan to fight the phenomenon of prostitution and rehabilitate sex workers.
After that bill was passed in its preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum, the coalition and opposition agreed to not advance it further until a government-sponsored bill was ready, which is what passed Sunday. The advantage of the government-sponsored bill is that funding to enforce the law and rehabilitate sex workers has the government’s support in advance.
The ministerial committee also appointed a task force to oversee the implementation of a committee on fighting prostitution that led to the bills. Justice Ministry Director-General Amy Palmor will head the task force.
According to the bill, the fine for the first offense of hiring a prostitute will be NIS 1,500 and the fine for a second offense within three years will be NIS 3,000. Those who are fined could decide to appeal the fine in court, but if found guilty, the court could fine the offender by as much as NIS 75,300.
The bill would apply to customers seeking prostitution services from an adult. Hiring a minor as a prostitute is already a crime, as is proving prostitution and running a house of prostitution.
“The government sent a clear message to customers of prostitution that what they are doing is unacceptable,” Shaked said. “We will expand our efforts to fight against prostitution.”
Shaked said that from her standpoint, the fines would be just part of an effort by the government to fight prostitution that will include rehabilitation for prostitutes, hotlines, and safe houses for those escaping lives of prostitution.
A campaign will also be conducted to raise public awareness of the dangers of the prostitution industry, teach teenagers and soldiers, and help schools realize which of its students are in danger of succumbing to prostitution.
Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie, who heads a Knesset subcommittee on the struggle against trafficking women and prostitution, called the advancement of the bill historic and said it sends a message that the state will be fighting a phenomenon that is destructive to Israeli society.
“I hope the bill diminishes the demand for prostitution and helps rehabilitate those trying to get out of the circle,” said Lavie, who added that it was urgent to advance the bill in the Knesset immediately, before the parliament is dispersed and elections are initiated.
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich said she hoped the bill would be “the end of the era in which women were property that could be sold while harming their will, their bodies, and their souls.”
According to Welfare Ministry figures, there are some 14,000 Israelis engaging in prostitution, including 3,000 minors. Sixty-two percent of female prostitutes are mothers to children under 18.
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