Israeli Minister to Authorize Fines for Frequenting Prostitutes After Months of Refusal

Amir Ohana is expected to sign the order allowing police to implement the law, which criminalizes soliciting or patronizing prostitutes, by the end of the year

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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Public Security Minister Amir Ohana speaks during a press conference in Sderot, August 16, 2020.
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana speaks during a press conference in Sderot, August 16, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Israel's Public Security Minister Amir Ohana will sign an order authorizing police officers to fine those who frequent prostitutes after months of refusing to implement the controversial law, announced the government to the High Court on Sunday.

The minister initially tried unsuccessfully to delay the date that the controversial law went into effect, July 10, and after failing said he would not authorize it until there are “arrangements for aspects of treatment and rehabilitation” for sex workers.

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Ohana is expected to sign the order allowing the police to implement the law, which criminalizes soliciting or patronizing prostitutes, by the end of 2020.

The State's response to the petition filed by the Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution states that "a limited period of time is required for the Public Security Minister in order to improve and promote the readiness of the relevant parties and expand the complementary rehabilitative responses to the enforcement proceedings. According to the respondents, this period of time is reasonable given the circumstances of the issue."

The state's response also states that Ohana passed on his updated position to the Attorney General in mid-September. After being updated on the government ministries' preparations for the implementation of the law, "the minister is convinced that there has been significant progress in the work of these government ministries in formulating the responses in the various aspects, which was not the case before," continued the state's response. 

According to the response, from the review that Ohana received, it became clear that the program that will address populations in the prostitution cycle in aspects of education and information "will progress considerably by the end of 2020."

The law was ratified by the Knesset in December 2018, without a single Knesset member voting against it. Its implementation was postponed by a year and a half, until July 2020, to allow government ministries to prepare properly.

The law defines visiting prostitutes as an offense, and states that the police can impose a fine of 2,000 shekels ($586) for using or seeking to use the services of a prostitute, or double that amount for a repeated offense – up to 73,500 shekels in extreme cases.

With this law, Israel joined other countries in adopting the Swedish model in dealing with prostitution, which focuses on incriminating the clients and seeks to make visiting prostitutes illegitimate. But supporters of the law noted it must be accompanied by government investment to rehabilitate women working as prostitutes.

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