Israel to Classify Lap Dances at Strip Clubs as Prostitution

State Prosecutor's office issues new directive clamping down on such activities in the country's strip clubs, stating that under some circumstances dances could be considered an illegal 'act of prostitution'

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People protesting outside a strip club in Tel Aviv, 2017.
People protesting outside a strip club in Tel Aviv, 2017.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Police announced on Wednesday that following a new directive from the State Prosecutor's office, lap dances with customers at strip clubs will be considered under certain circumstances as a criminal offense constituting prostitution.

Deputy State Prosecutor Shlomo Lamberger has instructed to increase the enforcement against such lap dances, which, in certain circumstances (such as the duration of the dance and the nature of the physical contact between the dancer and the customer) will be considered as an "act of prostitution"— which does not have a legal definition.

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Lap dancing is a type of dance in which the dancer, who is typically scantily clad, has physical contact with a strip club customer who is seated.

According to the new directive, law enforcement officials will be able to act against owners of strip clubs by issuing closing warrants, discountinuing the clubs' business licenses, and in case of violations of the directive, filing indictments against such institutions.

The police have begun issuing warning letters to strip club owners around the country detailing the change in policy and warning the owners of potential future police action. Anti-prostitution activists have hailed the new policy for giving the police an effective enforcement tool that will make it easier to close down strip clubs on the claim that prostitution activity is occurring on the premises.

>> Read more: New Israeli bill fining prostitution clients may change thousands of women's lives | Analysis ■ Israel targets the sex industry: Moving to ban internet ads, fine johns and close websites

The new policy was developed after a Tel Aviv district court judge ruled that a strip club near the Ramat Gan Diamond Exchange could not be granted a license as a place of entertainment. The prosecutor’s office then assembled a team to look into grounds for deeming strip clubs as places of prostitution. The office did in fact defend the Interior Ministry’s position in support of granting the license to the Ramat Gan strip club, but it then decided not to appeal the denial of the license.

Because the law does not define what prostitution is, the prosecutor’s office decided that there were only grounds under some circumstances to consider lap dances as prostitution and therefore a criminal offense.

Iceland is the only country that has outlawed strip shows. In legislation passed in 2010, it banned strip shows and the use of nudity for the purposed of generating income or to publicize a place of entertainment.

The law in Israel on the operation of strip clubs is unclear. Some local governments allow strip clubs to operate and others have banned them. The city of Ramat Gan had sought to shut down the club near the Diamond Exchange and the Haifa municipality has taken similar steps. On the other hand, there are a large number of strip clubs in Tel Aviv that operate with municipal approval.

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