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More than 80 percent of Israel's Jewish, secular population feels that prostitution harms human dignity and society and that it is a phenomenon that must be confronted.

The findings were part of a survey conducted by the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women in the Prime Minister's Office. The study also found that 50 percent of Israel's Jewish, secular population thinks there should be legislation to ban or limit the solicitation of sex services.

"The public holds progressive views regarding the phenomenon of prostitution, and especially regarding the need for legislation against the solicitation of sex services," said Mirit Danon, head of the authority.

The study was commissioned in order to gauge public views on prostitution. It surveyed 430 male and female Hebrew-speaking respondents from all Jewish walks of life, with the exception of the ultra-Orthodox.

Sixty-six percent of respondents said that the pimp is the sole criminal in prostitution rings, while 68 percent said that participation in prostitution stems from severe distress. Only 18 percent said that women become prostitutes of their own accord.

Forty-three percent of those questioned were unaware that most prostitutes start selling their bodies as adolescents, and 41 percent said that prostitution is a profession in all senses of the word. An overwhelming majority of respondents, 87 percent, felt that women cannot escape the profession without the state's help.

"The public holds progressive views regarding the phenomenon of prostitution, and especially regarding the need for legislation against the solicitation of sex services," said Mirit Danon, head of the authority.

The Tel Aviv Cinematheque will host a seminar today about prostitution in Israel and what can be done to minimize it.