A Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services Bill was passed earlier this year in the Israeli Knesset making prostitution illegal by a vote of 34-0.
“Years of hard work have come to a conclusion today,” MK Shulamit "Shuli" Mualem-Rafaeli (Jewish Home) said. “The State of Israel made today a moral and historic decision in which we condemn prostitution and act to rehabilitate women, men and teenagers who have found themselves in the cycle of this industry of cruel exploitation.” The legislation, Mualem-Refaeli argued, “will significantly reduce the scope of prostitution in Israel.”
MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said the law will lead to a “dramatic change” and called its passage an “exciting, moral and defining moment which defines the State of Israel as a society – who we are and what our values are. Israel joins a host of nations which made it clear that the consumption of prostitution is an immoral norm with devastating consequences,” she added.
Explanatory notes accompanying the bill state that “over the past few years, there is a growing recognition in Israel that the prostitution industry embodies very hurtful characteristics and that it must be diminished through rehabilitation, informing the public, education and enforcement.”
“These are excellent tidings for some 14,000 women, men and children who are viciously exploited every day in Israel’s sex industry," said Calev Myers, a recognized Israeli human rights lawyer. “We have advocated for about 10 years to advance this legislation, and we are thankful to God that He allowed us to harvest this sweet fruit,” he reported.
Israel is only the tenth country in the world to make prostitution illegal. The law punishes the client who purchases sex, and not the prostitute. A number or non-profit organizations have begun to address the situation. Since the passing of the law, there has been a 210 percent increase in the number of women seeking rehabilitation and re-entry into the legitimate job market. The sex trade in Israel is estimated to generate up to $500 million in revenue a year.
Under the terms of the bill, the offending prostitution client will be fined. Courts will be empowered to raise the fines on repeat offenders up to a maximum of NIS 75,300 (approx. $20,600). The legislation also offers the option of instituting other punishments, such as classes to educate those who pay for sex. In certain cases, repeat offenders could face criminal prosecution.
The new law will go into effect a year-and-a-half after it was passed in order to give law enforcement agencies ample time to prepare for its implementation, and to expand the rehabilitation programs for prostitutes.