The start of 2017 offers the opportunity to reflect on last year’s challenges and accomplishments, some of which are referenced below:
Nordic Model Legislation
We initiated and secured unprecedented left-right cross-party collaboration between MKs Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) and Zehava Galon (Meretz), who are relentlessly promoting a bill authored by TFHT based on the Nordic Model, the international standard to criminalize the purchase of sexual services and protect the prostituted person. This pioneering legislation calls for specific rehabilitation and punishment policies, providing a roadmap to dismantle the criminal industries that allow human exploitation to operate both underground and in the public’s full view.
Several Government Ministers expressed support for TFHT’s bill, including Gilad Erdan, Minister of Public Security, and Haim Katz, Minister of Welfare and Social Services. Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, -authorized a committee to examine possible Government sponsorship of the bill.
We are cautiously optimistic that 2017 will see the bill submitted by the Government and/or enacted by the Knesset, crucial steps to eliminate prostitution and sex-trafficking in Israel.
TFHT either authored and/or promoted several other progressive anti-trafficking and anti-prostitution measures and legislation:
- TFHT drafted a bill banning the publication of ads recruiting women for prostitution. MK Shuli Mualem-Refaeli submitted the bill at the end of the summer session of the Knesset. A Bill criminalizing those who print those ads and benefit financially was submitted by MK Aida Touma-Suleiman (Hadash).
- Together with the Ministry of Justice, TFHT is drafting an amendment of the Criminal Code to shut down virtual spaces (websites, apps, and virtual groups) where prostitution is negotiated and women are recruited for prostitution.
- Amendment of the Criminal Code increasing the punishment for paying for sexual services from minors from three to five years was incorporated into law.
- Last week, a bill was submitted by MK Merav Michaeli (The Zionist Camp).mandating that telephone lines published on cards and flyers advertising sexual services and brothels be disconnected.
Activity in the Courts
- Issued an appeal to close the Pussycat Club: TFHT, with the pro-bonoassistance of the Kabiri-Nevo-Keidar law firm, submitted an appeal against the Tel-Aviv Municipality asking the court to cancel the license of the “Pussycat” strip club which has operated as a brothel in full sight of law enforcement.
- Represented journalist Sharon Shpurer: TFHT and Kabiri-Nevo-Keidar represented Sharon Shpurer, the courageous journalist being sued by a trafficker in an attempt to silence her after she reported his ill-gotten gains were channeled into his seemingly legitimate real estate enterprise. Sharon received enormous support from colleagues, activists, and the general public during her trial.
Attendance at Knesset Committees
We are permanent members of the sub-committee of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality dedicated to the fight against human trafficking and prostitution led by MK Aliza Lavi (Yesh Atid). The committee is an important arena for our struggle and for coordinating between the various organizations working in the field.
Public Sphere Activities
TFHT continued to act in the public sphere to strengthen Israel’s growing activist community committed to confronting trafficking and prostitution, and to changing public understanding and opinion;
- TFHT organized a second memorial ceremony in remembrance of Jessica, a prostituted woman who took her own life in the brothel where she was kept, and on behalf of all the victims of prostitution in Israel. The ceremony attracted wide public attention and media coverage.
- TFHT developed and launched a provocative internet campaign which went viral to bring attention to the plethora of business cards advertising for sex which litter the streets and windshields of Israel’s large cities.
- TFHT initiated dozens of articles in the media. An encouraging development is the increased coverage of the sex industry. That coverage has evolved, shifting from “tabloid” news to discussing the devastating consequences of trafficking and the sex industry on its victims.
- TFHT launched a new bilingual website to better communicate with our stakeholders.
Publication of the National Survey on Prostitution
For the first time, the findings of the national survey on prostitution in Israel conducted by the Ministries of Social Affairs and Public Security were published. TFHT was a member of the advising committee of the survey. Despite a number of methodological critiques we raised, we consider its findings to be crucial elements of a new public discussion of prostitution and trafficking.
TFHT continued to serve as a member of the Coalitzia l’Ma’avak Bznut (Coalition for the Fight Against Prostitution) with partner organizations who operate daily in various fields related to prostitution, promoting solutions for prostituted women and a change in public opinion.
- TFHT expanded the reach of Project 119 by increasing our volunteer corps.
- TFHT recruited three new interns, who thanks to ATZUM Justice Work’sAGN scholarship, assist our efforts.
- TFHT benefitted from additional volunteer assistance provided by Beit Midrash TAKUM Fellows.
The Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution