Archives for December 2014

Task Force on Human Trafficking: Facing New Political Realities

Facing new political realities

The 19th Knesset lasted 671 days, less than half its designated term. The government’s vote to dissolve on December 8, 2014 and call for early elections in March 2015 was a blow to those working to bring about critical legislative reforms to protect vulnerable populations. Many important initiatives have been shelved, at least for the time being. Understanding social change as a marathon, not a sprint, the work of ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT) continues.

For the past three years, TFHT has called for passage of legislation based on the Nordic Model, the international standard designed to criminalize the purchase of sexual services and protect the prostituted person, nearly always a coerced girl or woman victim of childhood rape and/or incest. Following the dissolution of the 18th Knesset (February 24, 2009 – February 5, 2013), during which important strides were made with then MK Orit Zuaretz, TFHT maintained and increased its efforts.

From the day the most recent Knesset was sworn in, THFT lobbied and worked tirelessly with government officials from various ministries to advance the complicated process of presentation of legislation through its passage into law. (For detailed information, please see “Primer on Passing Legislation Based on the Nordic Model“.) Perhaps our most significant accomplishment of the past 22 months was bringing to the table three MKs from parties of considerably different political orientation — MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, and MK David Tzur (HaTnuah). In the next Knesset, the strategy will remain the same as we collaborate with those parties with which we have established ongoing relationships.

The next 100 days

There is much to be done to keep the issue front and center and assure we do not lose traction gained. Among other things, our work will focus on:

Legislation: Continue to liaise with past and potential legislators, and the NGO, academic, and law enforcement communities to author comprehensive legislation providing broader protection of prostituted persons than that previously tabled. Such legislation will more comprehensively address issues of demand, deterrents, and rehabilitation.

Legal: Bring to justice individuals renting or managing hundreds of brothels and “discrete apartments” openly operating with impunity; challenge increasing incidents of police violence against prostituted persons, particularly those from the LGBT community.

Advocacy and Social Action: Marshal our “Project 119” international volunteer corps in new ways during this transition between governments to better inform government ministry officials, influential media persons and Diaspora Jewish communal leadership.

Education: Facilitate continuing and new service-learning programs with the aim of encouraging informed activism towards the abolishment of trafficking and prostitution in Israel and the Diaspora.

Stay tuned

TFHT and our long-time pro bono partners which include the law firm of Kabiri-Nevo-Keidar and advertising company Y&R-Israel are committed to changing the social norms and criminal “industries” which allow women and girls to be exploited and diminished. No matter the obstacles placed in our path, we shall persevere for the stakes of human suffering and slavery are too high to abandon. To understand the need for a full-out attack on the prostitution industry, please view this 5-minute hard-hitting piece aired by Israel Social TV (with English subtitles) called The Customer Is Not Always Right.

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The Customer is Not Always Right

Israel Social TV
Mar 3, 2014

The sex industry in Israel generates nearly two billion shekels a year. Thousands of women find themselves trapped in the prostitution cycle due to sexual abuse in childhood, along with severe social and economic circumstances. The bill proposes to take legal actions against clients of prostitution services passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset, and social organizations are now trying to push for final passage. Implementation of the law is expected to cost a lot of money. There is concern that to pass the law, the rehabilitation track will be removed from the law. Therefore, these women engaging in prostitution for lack of choice will lose their source of income and also the possibility of rehabilitation.