10% percent of Israeli prostitutes are minors

Education Ministry launches program to raise awareness about dangers of human trafficking among school-age youth.

By
July 23, 2008 21:24
2 minute read.

The age of those being forced into the sex industry is rapidly falling, with more than 1,000 out of the estimated 10,000 prostitutes in Israel being minors, according to statistics collected this year by counter-trafficking non-governmental organization, the Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT). These figures, which are based on the findings of numerous non-governmental and official sources, were presented Wednesday at a special session of the Knesset Sub-Committee on Human Trafficking - headed by Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On - focusing on a new Education Ministry initiative aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of the sex industry in general and human trafficking in particular among school-age children. TFHT's report also noted a new trend of 13 and 14 year olds frequenting prostitutes. "It is essential that the future generation learns about equality between the sexes and is given the tools to correctly judge and evaluate this phenomenon," Education Minister Yuli Tamir told The Jerusalem Post following the meeting. Earlier in the session, the minister had referred to the rise in media reports of children, some as young as 11 or 12, using cellphones to capture graphic sexual incidents on camera and stories of teens pimping out their peers for cash. Tamir said that the goal of the program, which started work six months ago, was to combat such incidents and to provide teachers with the educational tools to raise awareness of right and wrong among teens. "Our main goal is to teach children that other people should not and cannot be seen as mere objects to be purchased," commented Miriam Schechter, Commissioner of Gender Equality in the Education Ministry and the one responsible for incorporating information on trafficking and prostitution into the education system. She said that so far this year the ministry had worked together with several hundred teachers on how to present the subject to high schoolers and had run a handful of workshops and other pilot programs in Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Bat Yam and Nahariya. "We are very happy that this [education] minister is so open to this topic and willing to raise the issue among the country's youths," said Gal-On. "It is not easy to introduce a new topic to the education curriculum and obviously there is always more work that can be done in this area, but this is definitely a step in the right direction." "There are no comprehensive figures on prostitution in this country but we know that very young people have always been involved," said TFHT Co-Director Yedida Wolfe, who along with several other NGO representatives was part of the steering committee that initially created this educational track. The organization's report also notes that the Israeli sex industry rakes in close to NIS2.4 billion a year and that there between 250-400 "discreet apartments" selling sex in Tel Aviv alone. World figures, which are also presented in the report, note that most prostitutes are forced into the industry as minors and the world wide average is as young as 14. "While the [Education Ministry] initiative is a step in the right direction, it's a mere drop in the bucket," concluded Wolfe. "This issue affects children more than anyone wants to admit. The time has come to focus serious energies on educating them about a topic that until now has been swept under the rug."


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