Israeli Ban on Frequenting Prostitutes Goes Into Effect, but Government Slow to Move

70% of funds given to ministries to prepare for implementing law not used last year, Haaretz finds, despite delay

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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Police conduct a raid to uncover brothels in Tel Aviv in March, 2020.
Police conduct a raid to uncover brothels in Tel Aviv in March, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

The ban on frequenting prostitutes became law on Friday, making soliciting or patronizing prostitutes a criminal offense, and for the first time the law places the responsibility for prostitution on the customer. 

But Haaretz has found that 70 percent of the money given to cabinet ministries to prepare for implementing the law in 2019 was not used, although implementing the law, which was ratified in December 2018, was postponed by 18 months to prepare rehabilitation programs before the law was to be enforced.

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Haaretz has also learned that only on Thursday morning did the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry issue a bid to build hostels and centers for looking after minors, young women and transgender people involved in prostitution. This was supposed to be a major part of the state’s rehabilitation program.

Until now only those who sought to lure women into prostitution, pimped and traded in women were held liable. Under the new law, anyone caught using a prostitute’s services will be liable to a 2,000-shekel ($580) fine and a repeated offense will lead to a fine of 4,000 shekels.

The fines will be imposed by police officers who see the offense being committed. In the case of several offenses it will be possible to serve a criminal indictment which could involve a fine of 75,000 shekels.

With this law, Israel is joining other countries that adopted the Swedish model, which is based on incriminating prostitution customers and a massive investment in rehabilitating women who worked in prostitution.

Ayelet Dayan, head of the task force against trafficking of women, said “the law is a historical statement in which the state says that using women for prostitution is no longer acceptable. The law’s effect is already perceptible, there’s a reduction in prostitution consumption and more requests for rehabilitation.”

Haaretz has found that of the 30 million shekels transferred to the Social Affairs, Health, Education and Public Security Ministries for preparing rehabilitation programs in 2019, only 8-9 million shekels was used and 3 million shekels for implementing the programs in 2020 was transferred about a month ago by the Finance Ministry to the ministries. Another 30 million shekels is to be allocated next year.