The Law Agaist Consumption of Prostitution

The Legal Picture

Paying for the sexual services of minors is a grave offense, the penalty for which is five years imprisonment. Despite this, 3,000 minors are exploited every day in Israel, mainly via social networks and websites.

TFHT began advocating for the enacting of legislation proscribing the purchase of sexual services 11 years ago. At the time, only one MK Zahava Galon (Meretz) supported our effort. As our work progressed, other MKs, among them Shuli Mualem (Yamin HaHadash), Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), and Orit Zuaretz (Kadima), joined the struggle, later joined by former Justice, and current Interior Minister, Ayelet Shaked. That broader support led to the passage of a Nordic Model law, first adopted in Sweden in 1999, based on the principle of reducing demand for sexual services.

The Prohibition on Consuming Prostitution Act was passed on December 31, 2018 and took effect on July 10, 2020, with active enforcement beginning in January 2021. The law defines consumption of prostitution as a civil offense for which violators can be fined 2,000 NIS for a first offense, and 4,000 for subsequent offenses. Repeat offenders can be indicted, and if found guilty, can be fined as much as 70,000. In addition, a clause strengthening the law states that anyone found in a brothel is considered a consumer, regardless of his claims that he was not using the services of a prostituted woman.

The law also offers convicted violators the option, instead of paying a fine, of attending a series of educational sessions given by the parole services, whose objective is to change the offender’s thinking about consumption of prostitution.

The law also obligates the Ministires of Social Services and Homeland Security to report annually to the Knesset Constitution Committee regarding the law’s implementation and its effect on the rehabilitation of and assistance given to the prostituted population.

The law is in effect for a period of five years, during which it will be tracked by studies conducted by the Meyers-JDC-Brookdale Institute eliciting evaluating its effectiveness. To enforce the law, 10,000 police have undergone training toward employing appropriate practices in combating prostitution. The law also provides for public education as well as expanding services to the prostituted population, and the government budgeted 90 million NIS for three years enhanced rehabilitation efforts and for establishing new services.

The Law's Effects

In recent years, more countries have passed laws placing the onus on consumers of prostitution, among them Canada and Norway (2009), Northern Ireland (2015), France (2016), and Ireland (2017). These countries subsequently have seen a decrease in demand, leading to a decrease in prostitution; a decrease in human trafficking; and a significant increase in public awareness of these phenomena.

Countries with such laws, known as “client criminalization”,areseeing a decrease in the consumption of prostitution and human trafficking. Sweden reports a significant decrease in street prostitution, a decrease in the number of consumers, and in human trafficking. Norway reports a decrease in consumption, particularly among young people.

Until the recent law was passed in Israel, only those soliciting, pimps, and those engaged in human trafficking were considered offenders. Now the onus has been placed on all consumers, who can no longer deny responsibility and their participation in the exploitation of vulnerable human beings.