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"Spa, Massage and Pampering," reads one card. "Do you want to soap me up?" asks another. Distributed by the thousands daily, these colorful and sometimes graphic business cards advertising prostitution services are contributing to the growing number of women being held against their will as sex slaves, according to the Hotline for Migrant Workers.
To combat this illegal advertising, the Hotline, which works to protect the rights of foreign workers and victims of human trafficking, has opened a campaign aimed at raising awareness to the plight of the women working in the sex trade.
Central to the campaign are cards designed to look like those distributed by pimps and brothel owners but upon closer examination highlight some of the sickening details of a sex slave's life.
"As long as these illegal cards continue to be distributed, more people will visit prostitutes and more people will view the body of a woman as a commodity that can be owned," Idan Halili, who is overseeing the campaign for the Hotline for Migrant Workers, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview.
Halili said that on a typical day in most Tel Aviv neighborhoods, "every single car on the street is posted with these cards advertising sex services."
"This project is aimed at educating society about the truth," Halili said, adding that the hotline had put out an open call to designers to produce a counter-card and that within the a week, the Hotline would post the proposals on its Web site and ask the public to vote for the card they felt had the most impact. That card will then be printed and distributed in the same fashion as the pimps' cards.
Among the designs already received for the competition is the flip side to the "soap me up card," which contains a simple equation on the flip side: "Come and join the 20 others like you x 365 days x 3 years = 21,900 'men' who have soaped me."
Or the small print on the "Spa, Massage and Pampering" card that says: "Swedish massage = abuse; Thai massage = women as property; four-handed massage = rape. Do you really want to be a partner to this? Body and soul cannot be bought with money."
While Halili said the hotline did not have statistics for how many cards advertising such services are distributed, she said that according to statistics gathered by the Israel Police in 2003, "There are more than 3,000 women country wide being held against their will in the sex trade industry."
These figures were confirmed by a report released by the Knesset's Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women in 2005 that found that between 3,000 and 5,000 women had been smuggled into the country in the previous five years to work as prostitutes. The women, who were mostly from the former Soviet Union, were sold at public auction for as much as $10,000 and forced to work up to 18 hours a day, the report said. On average, they received only 3 percent of the money they earned from prostitution and many were raped and beaten.
Earlier this year, Israel was declared a top destination country for trafficking in human beings by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and in June, the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report placed Israel in the Tier 2 (Watch List) category.