Bill to Ban Ads Recruiting Prostitutes Approved by Knesset Panel

Amendment to law would give violators three years in jail

Cards advertising sexual services are seen lying on the pavement.
Tomer Appelbaum

A bill banning ads to recruit prostitutes was unanimously approved by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Monday. The bill, which now goes to the full Knesset, calls for a maximum penalty of three years in prison for publishing such ads, and if the ads are directed at minors, five years in prison.

The bill is an amendment to a law passed in 2011 banning advertising of sex services, a law that is rarely enforced. The current law does not prohibit prostitution, although it criminalizes some aspects of the sex industry. However, ads recruiting prostitutes still appear in want-ad sections and on websites, serving as a conduit to the world of prostitution and human trafficking. The ads are illegal now because they break the law against causing a person to become a prostitute, but in fact, only if such an ad is found to have recruited a specific person into prostitution can the publisher be prosecuted.

The bill, framed by Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi), Dov Khenin (Joint List), Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), Michal Rozin (Meretz) and others, can now can be presented in the Knesset and continue the legislative process. It will ease the way toward prosecuting printing houses involved in such ads.

One new element of the law, according to its explanatory remarks is that using euphemisms such as “massage” or “hospitality” as code words for prostitution will be illegal.

“These supposedly innocent ads that tempt young women with easy money are a trap that brings them into the prostitution industry,” Moalem-Refaeli said. The bill would be another phase “in the all-out battle to root out prostitution and another phase on the road to a law criminalizing customers of prostitution” and the rehabilitation of prostitutes, she added.

Moalem-Refaeli said she is amazed that most advertisers tell themselves that they are not advertising prostitution. “But it’s recruiting for prostitution in every sense and these ads should be banned.” The lawmaker said that in furthering the legislative process, the issue of Israelis publishing ads recruiting prostitutes abroad would be studied.

“Ads for example call on women from Ukraine and Moldova to come to Israel for prostitution, and this is becoming more common. The law will convey that these advertisers bear criminal responsibility even though they are ‘not advertising for Israeli women.’”

The bill was written by the Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution. Nitzan Kahana, co-director of the organization, told the Knesset committee that the bill includes prosecution of the brothel that places the ad.

Rozin told the committee that the bill should also outlaw stripping as part of recruitment to prostitution.