On December 31, as 2018 was coming to a close and the dawn of 2019 was on the horizon, the members of the Israeli Knesset joined together, in Jerusalem, to make a united, historic declaration about the values of their society. With no dissenters, the government of Israel approved legislation that sent a clear message: humans are not property to be bought and sold. In a momentous stand for human dignity and gender equality the Knesset gave final approval to a bill that criminalizes the purchase of sex.
The legislation also makes it clear that the government is committed to helping the most vulnerable of their society. Instead of criminalizing those sold for sex, the law offers them protection, social services, and assistance. It even allocates 90 million shekels ($24 million USD), over the course of three years, toward this purpose.
But has prostitution even been that big of an issue in Israel? Indeed, it has become a hotbed of commercial sexual exploitation. During our travels for the production of Nefarious we were able to see the exploitation in Israel firsthand, and had the unique opportunity to interview Ohad, a former Israeli trafficker who now fights what he was once a part of.
In particular, the Tel Aviv area has run rampant with exploitation. News outlet Haaretz recounted the experience of one woman being prostituted out of a local strip club.
Dafna has been working at the club for three years. “We are all mothers here,” she says, and suddenly tears course down her face. Until 8 P.M., when her shift finishes, she is expected to handle 20 to 30 clients, she says. A security guard intervenes, saying that all the women in the club are there of their own volition. “They are all here by choice,” he says. The women lower their gaze. An oppressive silence ensues. “Not one woman chooses this and not one really wants it,” Dafna says rebelliously. “These are simply women who have no choice,” she adds, and the tears fill her eyes again.1
Now, for women like Dafna, a tangible hope is on the horizon and help is on the way.
For over a decade, committed, passionate abolitionists in Israel and around the world have pushed for the passage of this legislation, and it is no insignificant victory. Exodus Cry, together with a coalition of other organizations, was able to do our small part to support the passing of this law by gathering hundreds of signatures from both survivors and anti-trafficking advocates, and presenting it to the Knesset’s Minister of Justice.
Israel has officially passed what is known as the “Abolition Model,” joining Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Northern Ireland, Canada, and France in sending this strong message to the world: the demand for prostitution must be stopped because people are not commodities to be bought, and the most vulnerable members of society deserve better.
The establishing of the Abolition Model in every nation is the single most important step to ending sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in the world. May these just laws continue to spread to the ends of the earth.
“For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Isaiah 2:3 (ESV)
- 1. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/hell-du-jour-meet-israel-s-daylight-prostitutes-1.469461