Israeli Prosecutors Will Litigate Lap Dances as Prostitution

According to a new directive targeting a raft of offenses, a dance that includes intimate contact will be considered prostitution, which has been made illegal in Israel

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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A memorial rally for murdered sex workers in Tel Aviv, August.
A memorial rally for murdered sex workers in Tel Aviv, August.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

Government lawyers will prosecute lap dances offered at strip clubs as prostitution, according to a new directive by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan that further curbs the Israeli sex industry.

On January 1, the Knesset unanimously passed a law forbidding the buying of sex; the law goes into effect in the middle of next year. According to the new directive, while a strip show or watching such a show will not be considered a crime, intimate contact between a stripper and a client who pays an entrance fee will be considered prostitution.

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The owners or operators of such clubs will be liable to indictment for soliciting or maintaining premises for prostitution. However, lower-level employees will not be indicted unless it can be proved that they clearly played a part in organizing sexual services at the club or hiring women to work there.

It will also be considered prostitution if the client is asked to pay extra for the lap dance, adding on to the entrance fee.

The directive also notes that such investigations must be carried out “with proper sensitivity and understanding that in general the women are not suspects.” Citing the “inherent exploitation in offenses of this nature,” investigators are instructed not to pay heed if the women say that it is their choice to be prostitutes.

Investigators are to “look closely at whether the women are under any type of pressure, or not allowed for any reason to leave the place, or are exploited in any other way.”

While women in such cases are not to be questioned as suspects, anyone working at the locale will be investigated for other possible offenses such as money laundering, racketeering and false imprisonment.

Also, in cases where the women will be sent back to their home countries, the prosecutors are considering taking the women's testimony before the trial of trafficking suspects, so that the women will not have to face the accused in the courtroom.

The state prosecutor has instructed that robust investigations be conducted when minors are believed to be involved in prostitution, when drug trafficking may be involved, when the women are illegal residents, and if the location is a nuisance to neighbors.

Instances where women themselves have rented rooms to work as prostitutes will be given lower priority in enforcement.

There will also be efforts against the advertising of prostitution in newspapers, visiting cards and websites. Investigators will target the people behind the advertising and distribution, as well as the owners of the businesses where the services are advertised such as websites, newspapers or PR firms.

The directive also suggests considering blocking access to phone numbers that appear in such advertisements, and in the case of printed material, indicting the owners of the print shops where it was produced.

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