The Knesset on Monday passed a landmark law against prostitution making hiring sex workers a crime, rather than the work itself.
The law makes Israel the 10th country to institute what is called the “Nordic Model” of combating human trafficking and prostitution. The law passed with the approval of 34 MKs, with none voting against, at the last minute before the Knesset broke for the April 9 elections.
There are currently 14,000 people involved in sex work in Israel, including 3,000 minors, according to the Welfare Ministry, and 76% would leave sex work if they could. The average lifespan of a prostitute in Israel is 46 years.
Now a first-time offender will be fined NIS 2,000 for hiring or attempting to hire a prostitute and NIS 4,000 for further offenses. It also allows for pressing charges and fining the offender up to NIS 75,300. It offers the Justice Ministry the option of instituting other punishments, such as “John Schools,” meant to educate those who pay for sex.
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich praised the Knesset’s passage Monday of a law criminalizing the hiring of prostitutes.
“The war on prostitution resembles the war against slavery and the emancipation of slaves - no less,” she said. “At the beginning it was considered radical to call to make hiring prostitutes illegal, but at the end of the day we have made this law, which is without a doubt an important and historical step.”