Gadi Taub
Photo: Inbal Zafrani

What about the prostitutes?

Proposed anti-prostitution law will be hurting prostitutes first and foremost

The bill that seeks a six-month prison term for anyone who “acquires or attempts to acquire prostitution services” was designed based on a similar law legislated in Sweden a decade ago. Supporters of the bill point to the success of the Swedish model, which they say reduced prostitution by 66%.


These figures, in addition to rhetoric that blurs the critical difference between forced prostitution and voluntary prostitution (supports of the bill refer to both of them as “women’s trade”) create the following picture: Prostitution is in fact being forced upon women by clients – the demand prompts pimps to create the supply.


So why then are Israeli prostitutes themselves, as is the case everywhere else, outraged by such laws? Because as opposed to the appearance of protecting them, the law will hurt them first and foremost.


First, the data regarding the decline in prostitution, which came from a document produced by the initiator of the Swedish law, are baseless, as an academic examination revealed. According to a report by Sweden’s police and Justice Ministry, there is also no evidence that the law indeed minimize prostitution. Apparently, street prostitution (which constitutes a small fraction of overall prostitution) declined slightly, while prostitution at home went up.


On the other hand, according to the report the prostitutes report growing risk to themselves. And it’s clear why. Incrimination, and it doesn’t matter who is being incriminated, the prostitute or the client, pushes the prostitutes underground, where they are more exposed to violence and coercion, and cannot call the police in case of assault.


Moreover, incrimination also exposes the prostitutions to unsafe sex. Carrying contraceptives deters clients, as the condoms are used as evidence against them at court.


Dignity vs. safety

An equally grave matter is the fact that this law may prompt prostitution to fully shift to the mob’s hands, thereby likely reinstating women’s trade in Israel. According to Israel Police figures, this phenomenon was almost wholly eliminated.


The Knesset committee debating this bill is familiar with all of the above, yet its discussions keep on avoiding the question of the risk to the prostitutes themselves. Some of the bill’s supporters say this is not the most important issue. The essence is that such law would convey an unequivocal message that prostitution constitutes humiliation for women in general, and not only for prostitutes.


If this is the case, legislators should openly declare the following: We are dealing with a moral law, whose aim is to convey the message that prostitution is illegitimate and that an adult has no right to offer sex services. The legislators should also add the following: They are willing to convey this message at the expense of the prostitutes, while substantially risking their safety and lives.


Prostitution is made up of many things: Ranging from call girls who make huge sums of money to drug addicts on the street. The prostitutes who are in distress need to be assisted. Yet pushing them into the darkness, while talking about their dignity, will only push the help away from those who need it.


פרסום ראשון: 01.07.10, 12:20
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