Israel is the tenth country to institute the abolitionist model of prostitution legislation to combat commercial sexual exploitation.
The “Nordic Model”, which originated in Sweden in 1999, recognises prostitution as a form of violence against vulnerable women that is driven by men’s demand. The Nordic approach therefore criminalises the purchase of sex, decriminalises the sale of sex, and offers exit pathways for individuals who wish to leave the industry. The progressive legislation has been adopted by Norway, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada and France, and is under consideration in Luxembourg and Italy.
According to the Welfare Ministry, at present there are 14,000 people involved in prostitution in Israel (including an estimated 3000 minors), with 76% who would leave the industry if they could. The average lifespan of a prostituted person in Israel is 46 years.
What will change under the new law?
The law will go into effect after 18 months, allowing time for the setup of rehabilitation centres for prostituted individuals, police training, and advertising and education about the new law.
From the Jerusalem Post:
When the law goes into effect, a first-time offender will be fined NIS 2,000 for hiring or attempting to hire a prostitute and NIS 4,000 for further offences. 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 paid for sex.
The law does not only make frequenting prostitutes a criminal offence, it seeks to help people leave sex work and find other careers. It budgets NIS 90 million over the next three years for the rehabilitation of prostitutes.Considerable progress has been made under the Nordic Model.
The effectiveness of the abolitionist model
According to research out of the Nordic Gender Institute, the number of men buying sex has decreased from 13.6% in 1996 to 7.9% in 2008. Street prostitution in Sweden has halved while in neighbouring countries such as Norway and Denmark it is estimated to be three times higher. Police have intercepted phone correspondence between pimps and traffickers who now regard Sweden as an unattractive market and suggest Denmark, Germany or Holland (where prostitution is legal) as more profitable alternatives. Reportedly, there has been a cultural shift in Sweden where it is no longer considered acceptable to purchase another person.
Israel’s passing of the Nordic model is a significant victory for gender equality, and we hope that other countries follow suit. We cannot oppose trafficking of women and children around the globe and simultaneously support men’s “right” to sexual access to the bodies of women and girls in prostitution. Sex trafficking would cease to exist if men stopped buying women. Gender equality cannot exist while women remain commodities to be bought, sold and used by men.
10 Myths about Prostitution, Trafficking and the Nordic Model Dr Meagan Tyler
Campaigners and survivors of sex trafficking celebrated last week after amendments to US federal law would hold websites facilitating sex trafficking accountable. In response to the legislation, various major websites including Craigslist and Reddit have implemented major changes- and now, federal law enforcement authorities are in the process of seizing Backpage.com and its affiliated websites.
The websites are being seized as part of an enforcement action by the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service, according to a notice that appeared Friday afternoon on Backpage.com.
The notice didn’t characterize or provide any details on the nature of the enforcement action.
It said that authorities planned to release information about the enforcement action later Friday.
Backpage.com lets users create posts to sell items, seek roommates, participate in forums, list upcoming events or advertise job openings.
But Backpage.com also has listings for adult escorts and other sexual services, and authorities say that advertising related to those services has been extremely lucrative.
Campaigners and survivors of sex trafficking are celebrating what has been dubbed “the most important anti-trafficking legislation in a generation”.
According to the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation, despite investigations by the U.S. Congress, websites that facilitate sex trafficking have not been held to account. New amendments to the “outdated” law, the Communications Decency Act (CDA) would allow victims of sexual exploitation to pursue legal actions against these websites and aid prosecutors in bringing charges against them.
A still image from the 2017 documentary I am Jane Doe.
As reported in the Washington Post:
The legislation arose as Congress learned that its current anti-trafficking laws could not be applied to websites like Backpage, which host thousands of ads daily for female and male prostitutes, some of which are children being trafficked by adults. Backpage has successfully cited the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from liability for material posted by third parties, to evade both criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits.
Congress launched an investigation into Backpage which showed that its operators helped customers modify their ads to delete references to teenage prostitutes, yet still allowed the ads to run. The Washington Post then reported that Backpage used a company in the Philippines to solicit both prostitutes and johns from other websites, and created new ads for the prostitutes.
In response to the amendments, various major sites have implemented significant changes:
Cityvibe shut down completely, the Erotic Review, the “Yelp of the sex trade” where men rate their experiences with trafficking victims, shut down advertisement boards in the United States, NightShift shut down to review policies, VerifyHim shut down its “newsreel,” Craigslist personals section was shut down, Reddit’s prostitution-related “subreddits” were marked private and the site instituted new policies banning the sale of sex acts and drugs, Google reportedly deleted its publicly shared commercial sex-related advertising, WordPress.com reportedly removed its commercial sex-related advertising sites, Paypal reportedly disabled advertised accounts for commercial sex-related payment, Rubmaps, Erotic Monkey, and USA Sex Guide had extended maintenance periods over the weekend, suggesting upcoming changes due to the new law, Microsoft is issuing new Terms of Service effective May 1st covering all of its platforms, including Skype and Xbox, to urge users not to use the services to share pornography or criminal activity. Read more.
This is a massive victory for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.
Watch the trailer for 2017 documentary I am Jane Doe
Backpage’s Sex Ads Are Gone. Child Trafficking? Hardly. New York Times
Last week, in a ground-breaking win, the UK High Court ruled that forcing sex trade survivors to reveal past convictions was unlawful.
The ruling was handed down after a claim brought by three sex trade survivors who argued that the legislative scheme requiring them to disclose their convictions for prostitution discriminates against women and is contrary to the UK’s legal obligations regarding the trafficking of women.
All three of the claimants had been forced into the sex industry as teenagers, and as a result had multiple criminal convictions of soliciting and loitering. Claimant Fiona Broadfoot, who waived anonymity, recalled:
“I met a pimp aged 15 and two weeks later I was thrown into the violent and abusive world of prostitution. Rape became an occupational hazard but I was arrested, charged and criminalised for loitering for the purposes of being a common prostitute. After more than twenty years out of prostitution, I am still having to explain my criminal record to any prospective employer. It feels like explaining my history of abuse.”
Another survivor reflected on how the criminal convictions had impacted her life:
“It doesn’t matter what it is – trying to help out at my kids’ school or the local brownies’ coffee morning, trying to be a governor or a councillor, applying to education or training or employment – even volunteering in so many fields – with children, with the elderly, in care, with vulnerable people, with youth work, with social work – all need a DBS and then you get treated like some sort of pariah or sex offender! But it’s not fair – I never chose that life and I fought hard to get out of it but I’m always being pulled back to it as though that’s who I am but it’s not who I am.”
While the women forced into prostitution had spent their lives enduring the consequences of being sexually exploited, including the indignity of having to explain their convictions, the men involved were never arrested, Broadfoot pointed out.
“When I was arrested, the police referred to my pimp by his first name. Well, why didn’t they arrest him?” she said.
“Not one of those men who bought and used and abused me – even the ones who knew fine well I was a child when first put on the streets – has ever had to face the consequences of his actions.”
Karen Ingala Smith, the CEO of women’s charity nia, said,
“We feel strongly that these women should never have been convicted in the first place. Prostitution is symptomatic of women’s continued inequality and discrimination and a form of violence against women. These women were exploited and coerced and yet it is their lives, not those of their buyers and pimps, that were blighted with convictions. They should not have had to take up this fight, but they did and it is to the benefit of all those exploited in prostitution”.