Israeli Ministers to Back Bill Banning Purchase of Sex Services

The proposed law would levy a fine on offenders during a temporary five-year ban on paying for prostitution

The sex scene on Tel Aviv's Solomon Street, September 2017.
Ilan Assayag

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation is to convene Sunday to approve a government-sponsored bill that would ban the purchase of services from prostitutes in Israel and levy a fine on offenders. The panel will meet even though the Knesset is in recess, which sources say indicates the government’s commitment to getting the bill passed. This will be the first discussion of the bill, which, if approved, will go to the Knesset for its first reading.

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

The proposed law calls for a temporary, five-year ban on the use of prostitution services, categorizing it as an administrative offense. A fine of 1,500 shekels ($408) will be imposed for a first offense while a repeat offense within three years will carry a fine of 3,000 shekels ($816). The bill also calls for authorizing the justice minister, with the approval of the social affairs minister, to establish alternative punishments in the regulations.

The bill will take effect a year and a half after its publication, to enable the state to set up rehabilitation mechanisms for prostitutes, based on the conclusions of the interministerial committee on reducing prostitution. The committee had recommended that the government allocate tens of millions of shekels for this purpose.

Anti-prostitution rally in Tel Aviv in 2016
David Bachar

Attorney Nitzan Kahana, a co-director of the Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution, said, “The meeting of the ministerial committee, especially during the recess, to discuss the government bill prohibiting the consumption of prostitution, sends an unequivocal message to the 14,000 women and men in prostitution in Israel; that after years of exploitation, the Israeli government is going to put an end to it.

>> Lesbian love out, prostitution in: How Israel censored erotic literature in the 1960s >>

We expect the ministers to approve the law on Sunday and we welcome this step, in which, alongside a commitment to significant funding to rehabilitate the survivors of prostitution, the coalition commits itself to ending the world’s oldest exploitation.”

A report released by the U.S. State Department in July states that Israel is a leader in the fight against human trafficking for the seventh year in a row. Nevertheless, the number of human trafficking victims in Israel rose last year, while the number of convictions dropped.

In June the Knesset passed a law banning ads that recruit prostitutes. The law, advanced by MKs Dov Khenin (Joint List) and Shuli Mualem (Habayit Hayehudi), mandates a sentence of three years’ imprisonment for ads aimed at adults and five years for those soliciting minors. The law permits websites carrying such ads to be shut down.