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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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,