On Monday morning, the Knesset Subcommittee on Combating Trafficking in Women and Prostitution, headed by MK Dr. Aliza Lavie, held a discussion about the findings Justice Ministry’s inter-ministerial committee and the possibility of implementing a policy of incriminating prostitution clients in Israel. In attendance was the Director General of the Ministry of Justice Amy Palmer. Director General Palmor clarified in her review that applying immediate fines to clients of prostitution is not possible in Israel and will not be included in the her interministerial committee’s recommendations. On the other hand, she said that it is possible to apply fines gradually as part of a criminal process. Accordingly, on Sunday the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation will present bills proposed by chairwoman Lavie together with MKs Zehava Galon and Shuli Moalem, which includes a program of rehabilitation and services for former prostitutes.
MK Lavie remarked at the beginning of the discussion: “The position of the committee under my leadership is known. Dozens of field trips, meetings with prostitution survivors, and in-depth committee discussions, have made it clear to us how destructive and corrupt prostitution is – both for those trapped within the industry, and for consumers and society as a whole. Women enter prostitution as a survival option, as a necessity of harsh living conditions and economic distress. It is important to emphasize that incriminating clients is not enough, and that this must come as a part of a comprehensive program of rehabilitation and education, leading to a significant reduction in prostitution in Israel.
Amy Palmor noted that the proposal and its considerations will be presented to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked next week, and that the government ministries will also respond to the proposal. In her review, she also explained that there is vagueness in the definition of prostitution consumption in Israeli law, which causes implications in characterizing prostitution offenses and imposing immediate fines.
She also noted that there is an existing law relating to minors who consume prostitution which is not enforced. In the past three years, of the 18 cases have reached the State Attorney’s Office, only 11 have become indictments, and only three have resulted in convictions. In the past year, no indictment has been filed regarding the consumption of prostitution by minors.
Palmor referred to issue of fines, which are present in the Nordic model. “In order to impose fines, there must be a very clear and defined offense.” In light of this, Palmor explained that if the law is to be enacted, a criminal process would be preferable, which could include progressive punishment, beginning with a warning. However, she noted that a criminal process should be a last resort.
For this reason, Palmor favored the implementation of shaming and educational programs, such as “John School,” which work as a deterrent to consuming prostitution. It would require repeating offenders to attend educational workshop explaining the negative consequences and destructive impact that prostitution has on women’s lives. Palmor favors public shaming of prostitution clients: “Imagine that he bumps into friends from work or the army reserves at the ‘John School’. The embarrassment It is enough to have them think twice about visiting a prostitute ever again.”
“We will give the Minister of Justice the entire report that reviews the laws of the various countries and explains the complexities of the criminal and penal law. From there, the Knesset will decide upon this law.”
Attorney Amit Marari, Deputy Attorney General, said that “Our position is that prostitution is not a rational choice. But the degree of culpability of the clients of prostitution is not as high as the offense of rape. There is justification for a criminal procedure, but in a lighter severity. It will tell the client that even if he does not see it, prostitutes come from distress rather than choice, and he is a participant in something that be eradicated.”
She added, “It is important to accompany this process in a study that will examine whether the incrimination is successful. Instead of rejecting this legislation, perhaps we should postpone this law to consider these factors. We certainly support the legislature’s right to determine whether a policy that incriminates the clients of prostitution should be implemented.”
MK Lavie said at the end of the discussion: “I would like to admit that after a year if work, we expected more clear-cut statements, however we are appreciative of the hard work done by the interministerial committee headed by Ami Palmor. Prostitution is unacceptable, and its consequences are devastating. Now it is our time to bring this law to the Knesset plenum. Such support for the law and cooperation from all sides of the political and civil spectrum is unprecedented. More than 70 Members of Knesset signed the various proposals, and I believe that the upcoming year can be the year in which Israel joins a number of advanced countries, enacting an important social and historical reform.”