In July, after eighteen months of preparations, a sex purchase act has now been introduced in Israel. The legislation is described as a landmark with the hope of changing the lives of thousands of women and vulnerable groups in the country.
Knesset accepted the proposal for a law that penalized purchases of sexual acts in December 2018. This makes Israel the eighth country in the world that has introduced the so called “Nordic Model”, which aims to punish those who use people in prostitution. The legislation against purchases of sexual favors stems from a long fight for human rights and was accepted unanimously, with 34-0 votes at the final vote.
MK Shelly Yachimovich is one of the politicians who viewed the legislation as an important historical step and connects it to the fight against trafficking.
“The war on prostitution resembles the war against slavery and the emancipation of slaves – no less,” she said. “At the beginning it was considered radical to call to make hiring prostitutes illegal, but at the end of the day we have made this law, which is without a doubt an important and historical step.”
Despite pimping, sexual exploitation and brothels being illegal in Israel, there is a high degree of impunity, and few convictions. This is a reality that unfortunately exists in more countries than Israel. The prostitution industry has become a multi-million industry in Israel, and Tel Aviv has been the center of sexual exploitation.
In accordance with the legislation, the penalty is a fine; first time offenders shall pay 2000 shekels, which is 250 euro. For recidivists within three years, the penalty will be doubled, 4000 shekels, which is 1040 euro. In severe cases, the scale of penalty may increase to up to 75,300 shekels (19,600 euro). Besides the fine, it is now being considered whether to create an educational center for sex purchasers who relapse into the crime.
The legislation does not require that a sex purchaser is arrested during a sexual act, it is sufficient that they are present in contexts and arenas for prostitution in order for it to be considered a crime. Such an example is to be present in the lobby of a brothel – unless the person can show a legitimate purpose.
An important part of the legislation is that the current rehabilitation program for people in prostitution will be expanded and improved. The legislation will shift focus from trade with bodies to increasing security and well-being for women. It will also help vulnerable people to get settled and find alternative ways of providing for themselves.
According to statistics, around 14 000 people fall victim to commercial sexual exploitation in Israel. 3000 of them are estimated to be underaged. The average lifetime for people in prostitution in Israel is estimated to be around 46 years, and 76 percent of the interviewees expressed that they would leave prostitution if that were possible.
RealStars see this legislation as an incredibly important step towards human rights. It is now crucial for Israel to secure enough funds to be able to give support and the rehabilitation programs. The country should also look into the ways in which France has worked towards a smooth implementation of the legislation, where also the perpetrators can take courses. It is important to create an understanding on why the legislation is needed, in order to better be able to implement it, and to signal to men with skewed values and a skewed view on humanity.
More information about the prostitution in Israel in this youtubefilm: