30 Dec

Annual Report 2017

Dear Project 119 Participants and TFHT Friends,

This past year brought dramatic change marking the beginning of the correction of a long-endured human rights injustice in Israel. In 2017, following years of TFHT action and leadership, our struggle to shift institutional, Knesset and public opinion in the fight against human trafficking and prostitution is finally bearing fruit.

TFHT’s staff, with your crucial support, have forced Israel’s legislature, courts and public to take note of those so many dehumanized thousands of trafficked and prostituted women who have suffered so long. On the occasion of a new civil New Year, we take a moment to reflect together on what we accomplished together in 2017 in the fight against trafficking and prostitution in Israel.

January 2017: A bill to disconnect telephone lines used to advertise sex written by TFHT and submitted to the Knesset by MK Merav Michaeli, was adopted by the Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, as a government-sponsored proposal. The bill was approved in its first reading in July and today waits its second and third readings, after which it will become law.

February 2017: Ireland, following the example set by Sweden, Norway, Canada, Iceland, and France, became the most recent country to pass law based on the Nordic Model as the most humane and effecting way to combat prostitution by criminalizing the purchase of sex and protecting the prostituted person.

March and July 2017: TFHT’s Criminal Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services and Community Treatment Bill was submitted by MK Shuli Mualem-Rephaeli (HaBayit HaYehudi) and former MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) to the Knesset. The bill, based on Nordic Model legislation, targets those who drive the industry – consumers – and calls for significant aid to assist survivors in their efforts to break the cycle of prostitution. The bill’s first reading garnered the support of 74 coalition and opposition MKs, many so voting as result of TFHT’s lobbying efforts. A parallel, supported bill submitted by MK Dr. Aliza Lavie, the head of the Sub-Committee to Combat Human Trafficking and Prostitution was also passed.

May 2017:

  • Israel’s Channel 2 “Friday Studio” featured a story about the Israeli “bachelor party industry” in Bucharest. Instead of exposing the exploitation of and violence against the young women who are forced to perform at these parties, the piece instead glamorized the phenomenon. After the broadcast, TFHT and a number of feminist groups approached Channel 2 regarding their irresponsible decision to air such a story. As a result of our efforts and public outcry, the reporter was suspended, and the editor took an early vacation. 
  • Following a petition TFHT submitted at the end of 2016, the Tel-Aviv Municipality announced the business license of the strip club, “The Pussycat”, was revoked. This was after the police discovered sex services were provided in private rooms in the club. Unfortunately, this fight is yet incomplete. The club applied for a license renewal immediately upon its cancellation. In October, after a great deal of pressure from TFHT, the police announced that serious offenses continued to be committed in the area, and accordingly, the permit application was finally and officially denied. The club appealed the decision denying the business license. TFHT submitted a request to join as a friend of the court to shed additional light on the abusive realities of strip clubs like “The Pussycat”.

June 2017: TFHT, in partnership with NGO Toda’a and “When He Pays”, a Facebook page that publishes testimonies of prostituted women, developed a hard-hitting awareness-building campaign.  The campaign exposed comments from customers who “rate” prostituted women on the “Awesome Sex” website, shocking a still too naive Israeli public to the perverse, violent expressions of men who purchase sex.

July 2017: Meet the Meat – To Satisfy your Carnal Desires” – TFHT launched a campaign in which a “food truck” drove around Israel declaring, “Women are not a product to be consumed.” The truck sold sandwiches of “Female meat, Kosher according to the government of Israel.” The menu listed sandwiches, “Amal’s breast” or “Yael’s rib.” On the packaging, stories were written of women in prostitution.

August 2017:  

  • TFHT held its annual memorial for women who died in prostitution. The memorial, in which hundreds of people participated, marked two years since the suicide of Jessica, a woman who worked for 15 years in a brothel where she was abused daily by consumers of prostitution.
  • The District court ruled the Ramat-Gan Municipality acted lawfully in discontinuing the business licenses of strip clubs in the Diamond Exchange compound. Just recently these strip clubs appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. TFHT requested to join as a friend of the court in order to shed light on how strip clubs are in fact a gateway to prostitution, and to stress that this is an opportunity to end the exploitation of women under the “license of the municipality.” Click here to watch our interview on i24 news.
  • TFHT met with the Minister of Justice – In the meeting with Ayelet Shaked focused on criminalizing the consumers of prostitution, we recommended procedures to eradicate prostitution through legal avenues addressing consumption and rehabilitation mechanisms for prostituted victims.

September 2017:  The law to block internet sites advertising sexual services, which provides the Israel Police a useful tool to close such sites, came into effect. The initial response from many representing these sites was to separate themselves from those forums that advertise sexual services.

October 2017: It came to light Google has chosen to collaborate with advertisers of prostitution. An expose by Hamakom Hachi Cham Begehenom revealed there was an explicit price bracket for advertisements of prostitution, indicating Google’s tacit endorsement. Following the expose, TFHT brought to Google’s attention that doing so is in violation of the law. Google immediately ceased such facilitation.

November 2017: A bill drafted by TFHT and promoted by MKs Shuli Mualem-Rephaeli and Dov Hanin, “Prohibiting Advertisements Recruiting for Prostitution”, was approved in a preliminary reading by 67 Knesset members with no dissent.

December 2017:

  • Following a meeting with TFHT, former Supreme Court Justice Eliyakim Rubenstein publicly called on Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to promote the Criminal Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services and Community Treatment Bill.
  • A temporary order to close the TLV CLUB was issued following a police raid in which it was discovered that like many other strip clubs, it functioned as a brothel. The police discovered private rooms in which young women were compelled nightly to provide sexual services. The owners of the club appealed to the courts, but those appeals were summarily dismissed. TFHT will push the authorities to close the club permanently.
  • TFHT called on Minister Shaked to advance the Criminal Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services and Community Treatment Bill to which she committed in July. Click here to watch the video.

 

What Else?

  • We participated in 25 of Knesset Committee meetings on the topic of human trafficking and prostitution.
  • We participated in countless interviews in various media outlets providing a clear voice about the basic human rights of victims of trafficking and prostitution.
  • We doubled our followers on Facebook and our newsletter- more than 8,000 followers! If you have not liked our Facebook page yet, click here.
  • We maintained constant contact with the Israel Police and the enforcement authorities. Only through dialogue can we succeed in bringing about enforcement measures against this industry.

And you?

Over the past year, each of you raised public awareness and public pressure which resulted in the Knesset deciding significant work need be done to eradicate prostitution in Israel. Without each of you, we would not have been able to reach this critical change of perspective.

This past year Project 119 has reached:

  • 120 Members of Knesset: Every month, you demanded MKt support the Bill to criminalize the purchase of sex. Because of you, 74 members of Knesset supported the Bill.
  • Ministerial Committee on Legislation: You sent testimonials of young women who survived prostitution, helping ensure members of the Ministerial Committee would pass the Bill when it reached their desks.
  • Minister of Social Equality, Gila Gamliel: You demanded she confront the prostitution industry as part of her efforts to advance social equality.
  • Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan: You called on Minister Erdan to seek tougher punishment for procurers, pimps and brothel owners. Minister Erdan appealed to the State Attorney and the Minister of Justice requesting that the “lap dance” be determined an act of prostitution.
  • Tel Aviv Mayor, Ron Huldai: You demanded Tel-Aviv’s Municipality close the “The Pussycat” immediately because it was a front for a brothel.
  • The Editor-in-chief of the Walla Website, Aviram Elad: You demanded removal of an article including legal advice to those advertising prostitution. The article was taken down!

 


 

In conclusion, it has been a year of much progress. As our final effort in 2017, Project 119 will call on the Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, to stop stalling and move forward with the Bill: Criminal Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services and Community Treatment. Five months have passed since Minister Shaked stood at the podium of the Knesset and committed to move this Bill forward. We have waited long enough. We invite you this week to send a letter to Minister Shaked asking she publish the conclusions from the inter-ministerial committee and move forward a Government sponsored bill prohibiting the consumption of prostitution. Together, we will ensure 2018 be the year in which justice will be done to address and seek to eliminate one of Israel’s most egregious, long-standing assaults on human dignity.

In honor of the new year, together with TFHT volunteer Nadav Weisler, we have created a simpler way to send emails! Click on the link below. A “new message” window will open which will already include the Minister Shaked’s email, the subject of the email and the entire text. At this point, if you would like to add anything to the email, you are more than welcome! If you’d like to send the letter using your cellphones, please click the link attached to the newsletter itself.
For any technical assistance – project119.tfht@gmail.com

Click here to send an e-mail to Minister Shaked through g-mail (computer only)

Click here to send an e-mail to Minister Shaked through any other e-mail platform (computer only)

The momentum of public support our work received in 2017 will carry us into 2018 as we continue to fight for justice and reform.

With best wishes for a healthy, productive and more dignified 2018,

The Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution
project119.tfht@gmail.com
TFHT is a joint initiative of ATZUM-Justice Works and Kabiri Nevo Keidar Blum & Co.

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09 Nov

Permanently revoking the Pussycat Club’s license

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Dear Project 119 Participants and TFHT Friends,
We finally succeeded in permanently revoking the Pussycat Club’s license. 

At the end of 2016, ATZUM’s and KNKB ‘s Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution submitted an administrative petition against the Tel-Aviv Municipality and the Israel Police, demanding revocation of the business license of the Pussycat Club, a brothel masquerading as a legal strip club. In response, the Tel-Aviv Municipality revoked the license.

Three months ago, it came to the attention of TFHT that immediately after revoking the license, the municipality began the process of renewing the Club’s business license.

After a prolonged effort, and after the police declared serious crimes were taking place at the Club, this past week the new license was denied in perpetuity. What remains is for the municipality to officially close the club. (See related article in Hebrew.)

The Pussycat Club, located in Tel-Aviv’s Atarim Square, is one of the largest strip clubs in Israel. The Club acts as a gateway into the world of prostitution for Israeli women and young girls recruited as dancers, but instead exploited and prostituted daily.

Exposing strip clubs for the cover for brothels they are and successfully shutting down the Pussycat, by drawing attention to the egregious crimes taking place within, are significant steps to end the prostitution industry. Below we share other important milestones that have led us to this moment:

  • Minster of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, seeks to expand the definition of prostitution: As a result of TFHT’s petition against the Pussycat Club, the Attorney General began exploring the exploitation occurring during a “lap dance” that allows customers to touch the dancer inappropriately in exchange for money. Two months ago, Gilad Erdan turned to the State Attorney and the Minister of Justice requesting they recognize the “lap dance” as an act of illegal prostitution.
  • A precedent setting decision from the Tel-Aviv District Court declares, “Objectification of women should not be entertainment.” The ruling determined that the Ramat-Gan Municipality acted lawfully when it decided to discontinue the practice of granting business licenses to strip clubs in Israel’s Stock Exchange complex. The court ruled that strip shows were not entertainment but rather degradation and humiliation of women. (Link to a related interview with the Co Director of TFHT, Adv. Nitzan Kahana in Hebrew.)
  • The media as active participants in the conversation: Before Sukkot, in acover story, journalist Dana Spector wrote,

“Once I believed every woman had a right to work as a sex worker; that it was her right to work as a stripper if that is what she wanted; that she could make a lot of money that way, because for her it was less awful than working a 12-hour shift as a waitress at a stingy coffee chain. But, tonight, not anymore. Tonight, I do not believe that anymore. I think that after what I have seen, I will never be able to believe that again.”

These steps acknowledge the progress we are making, but the road to eradicate the consumption of prostitution in Tel-Aviv and the rest of Israel remains long. We must demand the Tel-Aviv Municipality act immediately to physically close the currently unlicensed Pussycat Club along with many other strip clubs which are covers for illegal brothels and examine more closely, or deny, license requests to open strip clubs.

This week, we ask that you write to Tel Aviv’s Mayor and to the Chair of Gender Equality in the Municipality, asking they take action.
We thank you for your action and support!
The Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution
project119.tfht@gmail.com
TFHT is a joint initiative of ATZUM-Justice Works and Kabiri Nevo Keidar-Blum & Co.

26 Sep

Shana Tovah from TFHT

There is always something to be thankful for.

Dear Friends of the Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution,

Over the past year, the Task Force took major steps forward in our struggle for a more just and equal society – and the fruit of our efforts is finally showing.

This was a year of societal awakening – for the Knesset and the courts to begin addressing the exploitation, the anguish and injury that occur to those forced to work in prostitution. Tens of news articles were published about the work of the Task Force. On the eve of Rosh HaShana, the public’s commitment to finally putting an end to the destructive cycle of prostitution is stronger than ever!

This was a year in which the proposed Criminal Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services and Community Treatment bill passed the Knesset’s preliminary hearing, and the government recognized the need to take responsibility for the 12,040 prostituted women in Israel today.

This was a year which included other significant progress moving us forward, step-by-step:

  • Proposed legislation to cut off phone numbers published on “business cards” advertising sexual services passed its first reading.
  • The bill to restrict access to websites that advertise prostitution was approved by the Knesset and became law.
  • Following a petition submitted by the Task Force, the business license of central Tel-Aviv’s strip club, the “Pussycat”, a front for a brothel, was revoked!
  • The proposed legislation which forbids soliciting for prostitution through advertisements has been brought before the Knesset.

With 74 Knesset members voting support for the Criminal Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services and Community Treatment bill, and none opposing; together with the announcement from the Minister of Justice that the bill will be brought forward by the government, this coming year looks like the year for which we have long been waiting for.

May this year be a year of Tikun.
May this be the year in which the State of Israel explicitly says “No” to the consumption of prostitution services.
May this be the year in which the State of Israel establishes a rehabilitation system for women leaving prostitution!
May this be the year in which every prostituted woman knows she is not invisible and has the possibility of another life.

With many thanks and blessings for a Good, Sweet New Year,
The Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution

Click here to read our full newsletter.

17 Sep

Stripping ‘sex entertainment’ down to its bare, ugly bones

(This article is taken from Haaretz website.  Click here to read it fully)

Written by Vered Lee

“The precedent-setting ruling issued Monday by Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon Gonen that shut down a strip club in Ramat Gan puts an end to the whitewashing of prostitution and strip clubs, and aims to remove the camouflage and expose the hellish reality that’s existed in the heart of the city’s Diamond Exchange district for over 20 years.”

Continue reading Stripping ‘sex entertainment’ down to its bare, ugly bones.

12 Sep

It’s been two years. Remembering Jessica and the victims of prostitution

It has been two years since Jessica’s suicide, a woman who has been living in a brothel for the past fifteen years and exploited daily by tens of prostitution consumers. Last Thursday, August 10th 2017, we gathered for a march and a memorial ceremony held for the honor of Jessica and other 58 prostitution victims in Israel.

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We invite you to watch and share this related brief video:

13 Aug

Moving Israel to the forefront of women’s rights

(This article is taken from The Time of Israel website. Click Here to read it on the site)

Written by MK Aliza Lavie

Last month saw a historic success in the fight against prostitution in Israel: the Knesset gave unanimous preliminary approval for a bill incriminating the clients of prostitution and providing rehabilitation services to survivors of prostitution. It was a bill I submitted along with colleagues from across party lines in the Knesset, which is intended to ensure Israel joins a united front of advanced countries, who have made clear that the sale of women’s bodies as sexual merchandise is unacceptable and carries devastating consequences for women, men, children, and society as a whole.

Aliza LavieContinue Reading Moving Israel to the forefront of women’s rights

06 Aug

Sex education at Machane Yehuda market

(Click here to read the article on “Times of Israel”)

During the peak lunch hour in the middle of Jerusalem, at the Machane Yehuda shuk today, the arrival of a new food truck caused quite a bit of rukus. Calls to “come get your meat” on a loudspeaker, and girls passing out small sandwich bags, brought about large crowds expecting to get a free taste.

Meet the Meat was a typical looking roadside food truck, with a large kosher sign.  The difference was that rather than selecting your cut of meat from the cow diagram, there was an image of the female body. Each portion of the female body was labeled and numbered. The menu consists of sexually descriptive names of the female anatomy.Continue Reading Sex education at Machane Yehuda market

31 Jul

Thanks to you, we achieved so much last week

With your help, last week marked significant success in the fight to eradicate trafficking and prostitution in Israel! There is much to report, please read on.

Our New Favorite Number: 74
On July 16, TFHT’s Criminal Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services and Community Treatment Bill, based on internationally recognized Nordic Model legislation, passed a preliminary vote in Israel’s Knesset with 74 Members of Knesset (MKs) voting approval. Notably, there were no abstentions or nay votes.

Watch the discussions and voting from the Knesset session (with English subtitles):

Continue Reading Thanks to you, we achieved so much last week

24 Jul

TFHT’s bill approved by the Ministers Committee

A Historic Step Towards Changing the Face of Israel Society!

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved the proposed Criminal Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services and Community Treatment Bill, 2017, drafted by the Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution and by MKs Shuli Mualem-Refaeli and Zehava Gal-On. The Committee also voted support for parallel measures submitted by MKs Dr. Aliza Lavie (Chair of the Sub-Committee on Sex Trafficking and Prostitution), Aida Toma-Suleiman, and Merav Ben-Ari (Chair of the Committee on Advancing Women’s Status).

Continue Reading TFHT’s bill approved by the Ministers Committee

12 Jul

This Sunday TFHT’s bill will reach the Ministers Committee, it’s time for pressure!

Sunday, July 16, a bill initiated and shaped by TFHT and  promoted by MKs Shuli Mualem-Refaeli and Zahava Galon, will be submitted to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. The bill seeks to criminalize the purchase of prostitution and provide rehabilitation for prostituted persons.

In preparation for this ministerial decision, the first and critical step toward passage in the Knesset’s current session, we seek to mobilize all possible support to ensure that the proposal will be passed. Therefore, we ask you now to email the members of the Ministerial Committee of Legislation, urging their support of this bill  to abolish prostitution in Israel.

Please forward this letter to friends, relatives and community leaders so that they might also help. This Sunday is the time to demand Israel’s decision-makers fulfill the will of the public and act without delay to prohibit the consumption of prostitution and rehabilitate victims of prostitution in Israel.
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Continue Reading This Sunday TFHT’s bill will reach the Ministers Committee, it’s time for pressure!