Prostitution in Israel

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Prostitution in Israel is legal, but organized prostitution in the form of brothels and pimping is prohibited.[1]


Prostitution was legalised in Israel in 1949 under the Prostitution and Abomination Act, although homosexual prostitution was not legalised till 1954. However in 1962 indoor prostitution but not street prostitution was prohibited and is controlled by the Israeli Criminal Law 1966, Sections 199-202. However indoor prostitution has continued to thrive. (Amir 2004) It was not perceived as a problem till the 1970s, (Cnaan 1982) and prostitution policy has been described as 'benign neglect'. (Amir 2004) A 1975 inquiry (Ben-Eato) recommended legalisation but this was not implemented. (Cnaan 1982)

In the 1990s, as in other countries, trafficking in women became a political issue in women's movements in Israel, who engaged in political lobbying for legislative action. (Amir 2004) In 2003, Israel passed a law that would allow the state to confiscate the profits of traffickers, but watchdog groups claim it is rarely enforced.[2] In 2007 a ban on advertising was debated.[3] In December 2009, a bill outlawing purchase of sexual services was introduced into the Israeli parliament. [4] In February 2012 another draft bill received cabinet approval.[5] [6]

Despite the penal code using the services of a prostitute carries widespread legitimacy in Israel, and social norms distinguish between prostitution and trafficking.[7]


The sex trade in Israel generates up to $500 million in revenue a year.[8]


Israel is a country of immigrants, including a large number of Russians. Immigrant women have included prostitutes, while others turned to prostitution due to economic hardship in their new land. (Amir 2004). Prostitution in Israel has been dominated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union since the mass immigration in the 1990s. A study published in 2005 found 1,000 Russian prostitutes working in Israel, mostly in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. From 1991 to 1994 the number of "massage parlors" run by Russian immigrants rose from 14 to 111.[9]


According to the findings released in March 2005 by a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee, between 3,000 and 5,000 women had been smuggled into Israel and sold into prostitution in the previous four years. Most of the prostitutes came from Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan, China and Russia, and many were smuggled through Egypt. [2] [10] [11] In 2007, a report by the Knesset's Committee on the Status of Women reported that in recent years the number of trafficked women had dropped to less than 1,000.[12] In 2007, the United States State Department placed Israel as a "Tier 2" in its annual Trafficking in Persons reports, meaning that it does not fully comply with the standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.[13]

An organization calling itself the Task Force on Human Trafficking claims that every month, men in Israel visit brothels up to one million times.[14]


Various groups have advocated legalising prostitution, criminalising it, or just criminalising the clients. Conservative religious political parties have consistently opposed legalisation on grounds of immorality. (Cnaan 1982)


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