Prostitute hooker street walker 390 (R).
(photo credit: Edgard Garrido / Reuters)
A bill that will make paying for sex services a criminal offense passed its
preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday and will be forwarded to
one of the parliamentary committees for further review and adjustments before
The legislation was proposed by MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima),
chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women, and is supported by many
Knesset members from across the political spectrum.
It will impose a
sentence of six-months in jail or community service on any person who utilizes
the services of a prostitute or pays for any other related sexual
On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation gave the
bill its initial stamp of approval, and the proposed draft is already being
well-received by nonprofit organizations working with victims of prostitution
Earlier on Wednesday, Zuaretz held a hearing in her
committee to discuss the success of the bill thus far and to explore next steps
if and when the law is finally passed.
In her opening statement to the
committee, Zuaretz emphasized that she feels it is her duty as an elected
official to “protect human dignity” and that her work in making this law a
reality is part and parcel of that. She described the legislation as a central
element in empowering social change with regard to prostitution and human
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), chairwoman of the Committee on
the Status of Women, called the bill an “historic achievement.”
signed on this law, I thought it was only a pipe dream and that nothing would
really be done to protect these women,” she said.
“But I believe that if
you are determined then you can, one day, create a new order in
Hotovely added that in the process of making this law a
reality, Zuaretz had succeeded in changing accepted social norms, similar to
when the law dealing with sexual harassment was first approved.
various nongovernment organizations working to eliminate human trafficking and
sexual slavery, academics and other government officials also hailed the
preliminary approval of the law, pointing out that it has already gone a long
way toward changing accepted social attitudes toward the country’s booming sex
Although there are no official figures, it is estimated that
there are currently more than 15,000 people working in the prostitution industry
in Israel, 5,000 of whom are minors. Israel has been a destination country for
more than 25,000 victims of human trafficking since the 1990s.
further suggests that many of Israel’s prostitutes and sex slaves are controlled
by pimps and some experience violence at the hands of their clients. The clients
come from every segment of society and every ethnic, religious and socioeconomic
At Wednesday’s meeting, Tzippi Nachshon-Glick, director of
Services for Adults and Young Adults at Risk in the Ministry of Welfare and
Social Affairs, also spoke about the existing government program to help
rehabilitate women looking to leave the sex industry.
that the program, which was initiated by the government in 2006 and receives up
to NIS 10 million a year for shelters and rehabilitation programs in Haifa and
Tel Aviv, will soon be expanded to Beersheba and Eilat.