A prostitute waits for customers along a road..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved on Sunday a bill that would raise the penalty for using the services of an underage prostitute.
Knesset Committee for the Rights of Children chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton of Kulanu proposed to increase the prison sentence for soliciting sex from a prostitute who is a minor, from three to five years.
“Prostitution by minors is a societal catastrophe, and anyone who uses the services of a minor who is a prostitute is a rapist in my view,” Shasha-Biton said. “It cannot be that the punishment for consensual illegal sexual relations is greater than the punishment of someone who frequents an underage prostitute.”
Therefore, Shasha-Biton explained, she submitted the bill to make the punishment for both crimes equal.
“The current punishment does not reflect the severity of the crime and our need as a society to eradicate and condemn the phenomenon,” she added.
The proposal does not change the current situation in which someone convicted of hiring an underage prostitute can be convicted of other crimes based on the same incident.
The bill’s explanatory section states that prostitution among minors is connected to sexual abuse, abandonment, problems in school, low socioeconomic status, joining criminal groups, and homelessness.
“Many researchers think that children and young people who were abused turn to prostitution as a way to survive. The minors are taken advantage of for prostitution and find themselves in psychological, social and economic distress and are exposed to violence and abuse... They become addicted to drugs at a later stage, after years of working in prostitution, as another survival strategy,” the explanatory section reads.
The bill also describes a phenomenon of “casual prostitution among teenagers from normative families” who go to school and do not show signs of distress, but want to make extra money, and think they can protect themselves from assault and abuse.
The explanatory section also cites a Knesset Research and Information Center report from 2013 stating that the average age worldwide for starting work in prostitution is 13-14.