Israeli Social Affairs Minister Backs Bill to Criminalize Prostitutes’ Clients

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Outside the old bus station in Tel Aviv. The average age of the girls entering prostitution is 13 to 14.
Prostitutes waiting for clients in Tel Aviv. A proposed new law would make it possible to prosecute those visiting prostitutes.Credit: Nir Kafri

Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz sakid over the weekend he will support legislation to criminalize prostitutes’ clients, following the backing of ministry officials.

Katz was referring to a bill sponsored several months ago by MKs Zehava Galon (Meretz) and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi).

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked set up an interministerial panel to examine the possibility of making the use of prostitutes a criminal offense. The team will examine, among other things, the implications and costs of the legislation.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has also given his backing to the bill.

Katz recently met Galon and Moalem-Refaeli, as reported on Channel 2 News, and said he would support the bill to criminalize prostitutes’ clients and issue fines of 750 shekels ($200). However, Katz said the law should not apply to minors who visit prostitutes, and said it would not be possible to fine them due to their economic plight.

“Many women have [turned to prostitution] due to economic distress. I’ll promote the bill and allocate resources to rehabilitate and assist prostitutes,” Katz told Haaretz over the weekend.

“The fact that people choose to sell their body in order to survive is unacceptable. I’ll form my final position according to the panel’s recommendations,” he said.

Haaretz previously reported that officials in the Social Affairs Ministry have supported the criminalization of those who visit prostitutes since 2006. “If we want to deal with prostitution, we must reduce [the number of women] becoming prostitutes. And criminalizing their clients is one significant way of doing so,” said Tzipi Nachshon-Glick, head of the ministry’s youth service.

“In addition to police enforcement, we suggest that every client who is convicted is required to take workshops about the woman’s experience as a prostitute and the hardships she has to bear,” she said, adding, “The workshops will be given by women who survived prostitution.”

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