Gal-On proposes law to close down online sex industry

January 24, 2008 20:58
2 minute read.

Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On, chairwoman of the Knesset Sub-Committee on Trafficking in Women, revealed plans Thursday for new legislation that would make operating and advertising prostitution services on-line a criminal act. The legislation is being presented as an amendment to the existing criminal code and has yet to be approved by the Knesset. If it goes into effect, hundreds of virtual pimps, photographers, Web designers and others involved in running lucrative prostitution and "escort" services on the Internet could face criminal prosecution and possibly jail time. Twenty-one Knesset members have already said they would support such legislation. "Hundreds of virtual brothels operate on the Internet, offering women for sale," commented Gal-On, who is also planning to submit similar legislation against newspapers and magazines advertising such services in the next few days. "These Web sites allow discreet access for clients, protect their anonymity and offer men the chance to request prostitutes." She continued: "The legal system is currently inactive against these virtual brothels, and there's a real absence of suitable legislation." Gal-On, who drafted the bill with Hotline for Migrant Workers legal advisor Nomi Levenkron, said she was hopeful that the proposed law would send a clear message to those who buy and sell people for sexual purposes that prostitution was illegal in Israel. In recent years, the number of on-line advertisements offering sexual escort services has increased steadily, according to research conducted during the process of preparing the bill. A quick search on the internet turns up at least 300 Web sites with local Israel telephone numbers offering such services as massages, VIP "companions" and overt promises of sex available in numerous cities around the country. "These Web sites are encouraging people to utilize prostitution services," noted Adi Willinger, Field Coordinator in the anti-trafficking department of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, adding that many of the women involved in the sex industry here are victims of human trafficking. "[Using the Internet] people can just sit in their homes and order what they want. They don't need to be exposed or embarrassed." While tracking down "virtual" pimps and actually prosecuting them will be an extremely complicated task for law enforcement officials, Willinger said that "this does not mean we should not be dealing with the problem. Even physical brothels are well hidden, but are found eventually." She said that she was not surprised by the amount of on-line brothels advertised on the Internet. "This type of advertising is everywhere today, with newspapers and magazines available on the street advertising all types of sex and prostitution," said Willinger. Calls by The Jerusalem Post to several such Web sites were either not immediately returned Thursday or were met with hostility.

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