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The Knesset approved a bill on Monday that prohibits the online distribution of still or video images of a sexual nature without the subject's full and free consent. The offense carries a maximum sentence of five years.

The legislation is an amendment to the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law, and violators will be considered sex offenders, while victims will be recognized as victims of sexual harassment.

The bill was introduced by MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid), after an incident came to her attention in which a man posted to the mobile messaging application WhatsApp a video of himself and his former partner having sex. The video was subsequently forwarded to tens of thousands of people.

“We are witnessing more and more cases of sexual assaults that were filmed and distributed in public without restraint and without limits; this legislative intervention is necessary and will help fight the shocking phenomenon of ‘virtual rape,’” Kariv said after the bill was passed in its second and third (and final) reading in the legislature.

“It is clear to us that the pace of legislation always lags behind the technical and virtual reality in which we live. This is a law that is a breakthrough both from the legislative standpoint and also from the normative and ethical standpoint. This is a great achievement for the victims of sec crimes,” she added.

“During the election campaign for the Knesset I knew that it didn’t matter what happened, I am going to advance legislation on the issue. We need to understand that the distribution of such films and pictures is not a joke, they could very well ruin people’s lives and that of young women, some of whom develop a desire to commit suicide afterward or who unwillingly become porn stars. This is a dangerous phenomenon that must be uprooted and I am glad that the Knesset also thinks so,” said Kariv.