Canada MP urges MKs to back anti-prostitution bill

Joy Smith sends letter to MKs calling on them to support legislation that would make paying for sex services a criminal offense.

Prostitute and police 390 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Prostitute and police 390
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
In an unprecedented move, a Canadian parliamentarian has taken it upon herself to encourage Knesset members to support recent legislation that would criminalize prostitution in Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Canadian MP Joy Smith, chairwoman of the Standing Committee on Health, urged all 120 MKs in an email sent Friday to support a bill submitted last month by MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Human Trafficking.
The bill, which will make paying for sex services a criminal offense, received initial approval from the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum. It is still waiting to be forwarded to one of the parliamentary committees for further readings and adjustments before becoming law.
“Israel now has the opportunity to pass progressive legislation and to be a leader in the fight against this form of modern slavery,” Smith wrote in the email. “I urge you to support MK Zuaretz’s bill and help make Israel a country that others aspire to emulate. The world is watching and waiting for Israel to take this important step and eliminate the demand to purchase sex.”
Smith, who led the fight against human trafficking in Canada, said it is of great importance for a nation “to address modern day slavery.”
She also highlighted that during a 2006 trip to Israel, she met with leaders in the fight against human trafficking, as well as victims “whose lives had been shattered by rape and enslavement.”
“Israel has made various efforts to prevent human trafficking, but without addressing demand, they are insufficient,” wrote Smith. “In order to eradicate this shameless denigration and exploitation of human beings, the demand for paid sex must be eliminated.
This remains a significant problem in Israel as it does in Canada and the rest of the globe.”
She also pointed out to MKs that the link between sex trafficking and the demand for paid sex is undeniable.
“The men who practice their ‘right’ to purchase sex, without any fear of legal consequence, fuel the exploitation of others,” added Smith, highlighting that countries such as Sweden, Norway and Iceland have already taken such measures to combat the sex industry.
Zuaretz’s bill is based on a similar series of laws that were first passed in Sweden in 1999 and are now known as the “Nordic model.” Most Western countries have adopted some variation on this set of legislation.
Her attempts to pass the law have been backed by a political lobbying campaign led by the Task Force For Human Trafficking (TFHT), a project of NGO Atzum and the law firm Kabiri-Nevo-Keidar.
In addition to protests worldwide to raise awareness to the issue, 119 volunteers were trained as experts in the subject of human trafficking and assigned to each remaining MK to encourage them to vote in favor of the bill.
Although there are no official figures, it is estimated that there are currently more than 15,000 individuals working in the prostitution industry in Israel, 5,000 of whom are minors. The state has been a destination country for more than 25,000 victims of human trafficking since the 1990s.
TFHT research 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 ethnic, religious and socioeconomic stratum.