JIJ has been a key player in promoting a legislative model based on Swedish legislation in the Israeli Knesset. The proposed law will prohibit the purchase of sexual services, placing legal responsibility on the buyer and not on the people enslaved in the industry. This bill also creates the social infrastructure that will support those individuals looking to escape their torment.
The criminalization of the purchase of sex services is key in diminishing this industry and liberating its victims. This is due to several compelling reasons. First, criminalization in other countries have proven to be more effective in curbing demand for prostitution, while administrative penalties, that is to issue fines, have proven to be less effective. Second, Israel is a strong democratic country that upholds the rule of law. This means that citizens are more likely to be deterred if a certain act is criminalized, as they will be held accountable. Third, the shame and social stigma of a criminal offence is a powerful deterrent. Fourth, the guilt and recklessness of purchasers of sex services is serious and warrants criminal punishment. Finally, criminalizing the purchase of sex services is crucial in demolishing the sex trafficking epidemic.
The Knesset unanimously passed a law forbidding the buying of sex, as Israel joins other countries that have taken this route in recent years such as Sweden and France.
According to the law, which passed in a 34-0 vote, anyone buying or attempting to buy sex would be fined 2,000 shekels ($534), which doubles for a second offense. For any further violations the offender could be prosecuted and the fine could reach 75,300 shekels.
The law goes into effect in a year and a half, to give the state a chance to create rehabilitation services for prostitutes. An inter-ministerial committee on reducing prostitution recommended that the government allocate tens of millions of shekels for this purpose.
In 2016, the Welfare Ministry estimated there were 11,420-12,730 sex workers driving the country’s NIS 1.2 billion ($318 million) industry. According to that report, 71 percent of prostitutes said they began sex work out of financial desperation, and 76% said they would leave the industry if they could.
Punishing prostitution clients was first introduced by Sweden in its 1999 Sex Purchase Act — since adopted by Norway, Iceland, Canada, France, and Northern Ireland — which requires consumers to pay a fine or face up to six months in jail.