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Israel: Increased Penalties for Prostitution Advertising

(May 13, 2011) On March 28, 2011, the Knesset (Israel's parliament) passed the Penal Law (Amendment No. 109), 5771-2011. The Law amends penalties for prostitution offenses. Prostitution in itself is not an offense under Israeli law; however, facilitation of prostitution, solicitation, advertisement, and enabling are prohibited.

The new Law provides that advertising or provision of information for provision of prostitution services performed by a minor is punishable by five years' imprisonment or a fine of up to 226,000 NIS (about US$65,385). The Law also introduces penalties for advertisement of prostitution services if the provider of such services is of the age of majority, to three years' imprisonment or a similar fine. The Law authorizes the courts to impose a double fine on corporate offenders. The Law thus voids the exemption from penalty that had previously applied to advertisements in publications focusing exclusively on prostitution services when the publications were conveyed to individuals upon request.

According to the bill's explanatory notes, the prior exemption was designed to protect public feelings and limit the unintended exposure of the general public to prostitution advertisements. The change introduced by the new Law, according to the notes, reflects current increased awareness that “prostitution itself is a negative and serious phenomenon, involving severe harm to those who engage in it and to society as a whole, and there is a recognition [in the legislation] of the duty of society to fight prostitution, to act to minimize it, and to assist in the rehabilitation of those harmed by it.” (Penal Law (Amendment No. 109), 5771-2011 & bill, the Knesset website (both in Hebrew & both last visited May 10, 2011).)