On February 12, 2012 the Ministerial Committee will vote on a new anti-human trafficking law. The law attempts to stop human trafficking at the source by depressing the demand for paid sexual services. If the law is passed those using the services will face up to five months in jail and have to participate in a two day educational program. Their names will also be publicized.
Current laws attempt to stop human trafficking by cracking down on either the prostitutes themselves or on the managers and owners of brothels. Israel’s current approach is to focus on the managers of brothels, but this has not been effective in reducing human trafficking in Israel.
According the 2011 US Trafficking in Human Person’s Report, Israel’s management of human trafficking is currently classed with Bahrain, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Nicaragua, Uganda, the Ukraine, and Zambia.
Imprisoning prostitutes usually fails because the prostitutes aren’t usually acting freely and isn’t gaining financially from her actions. When she is “working”, her handler is paid and she gets little or none of the money. If she is put in jail, she will be intimidated back into the trade. The remaining group to focus on is the customers themselves and this is what the new law does. Sweden found that such an approach cut trafficking in half.
An attempt was made to pass a similar law in 2009. According to Levi Lauer, founder of ATZUM, the bill failed in 2009 because “too many people in important places with too many important friends would get caught with their pants down,”. To counter this, ATZUM has joined forces with the law firm Kabri-Nevo-Kaidar to form the Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT). It is also organizing grass roots efforts. They include
- organized protests in four cities for 11AM local time on February 5 in four major Jewish cities: Jerusalem, Washington DC, New York City, and London. A media line visdeo of the Jerusalem protests can be viewed here.
- an on-line letter writing campaign targeted at the Knesset. Anyone from any country may sign. Participants fill in their name and email and ATZUM will forward the letter to members of the Knesset.
- a webpage with guidance on how to call public officials , including members of the Knesset, to express your support for the bill.
- Pidyon pettion for rabbis and cantors. – a petition designed for rabbis and cantors of all streams of Judaism to sign.
- a fact-sheet and webpage with suggestions for running a party or games night to raise awarness.
Human trafficking takes many forms in Israel. Today 1990’s style Russian immigrants being spirited away to brothels in Tel Aviv are only one kind of sex trafficking. African migrants crossing the Sinai and seeking entry to Israel are also victims. Israel also has internal sex slaves – women who are trapped in relationships with abusive pimps who then transport them away from friends, family, and contacts in another part of the country. The threats of violence for internal trafficking can be intense. In Oklahoma, USA, a young woman was murdered and dismembered while another woman was forced to watch and report back to the other prostitutes who might be thinking of leaving.
According to Ruth Eglash , a senior correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, NGOs estimate that 15,000 prostitutes in Israel, about one third of whom (5,000) are minors. Most adults as well as children are not there by choice. They service up to 10,000 men each month. The men include secular and religious Jews, Arabs, and foreigners.