(July 22, 2020) On July 10, 2020, the Law for Prohibition of the Consumption of Prostitution Services (Temporary Provision and Amendment), 5779-2019 entered into force in Israel. The law intends to reduce prostitution by prohibiting its consumption “as part of an integrated process that includes education and explanation to the public, as well as the expansion of treatment and rehabilitation for people [working] in prostitution … while recognizing the harmful characteristics of prostitution and its damages.” (Law § 1.)
The law establishes an administrative offense of “consumption of prostitution” punishable by a fine, which is doubled for repeated offenses. (§ 4.) Consuming prostitution services from a minor, however, constitutes a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for five years. (§ 6.) While the legal provision establishing this criminal offense is not subject to a time limit, other provisions of the law will expire within five years after entering into effect unless otherwise extended. (§ 8 (a).)
According to the law, a person found to be present at a location that has been used fully or partially for the provision of prostitution services is presumed to have intended to consume such services unless proven otherwise. (§ 2.)
With the aim of preventing offenders from reoffending, the law authorizes the minister of justice, with the approval of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), to set alternative penalties in regulations for offenders and educate them about the harm caused to prostitution-service providers. (§ 5.)
The law requires that research findings on the law’s impact on reducing prostitution be submitted to the committee, along with recommendations regarding its possible extension, no later than one year before its expiration. (§ 8 (b).) The law further requires that the minister of public security and the minister of labor, social affairs and social services submit to the committee an annual report on the law’s implementation and its “promotion of an integrated measure for the minimization of prostitution.” (§ 9.)
A petition filed by the Transgenders in Israel organization before the Supreme Court to block the attorney general and the Israel Police from enforcing the law because the government had not provided transgender people with any adequate employment or welfare solutions before its implementation was rejected by the court. The court held that the petitioners had not presented their concerns to the authorities before petitioning the court, and that they had waited 18 months before filing their petition on the eve of the law’s date of implementation. (HC 4742/20 Trangenders v. the Police (decision rendered on July 9, 2020).
Updated with corrections July 23, 2020.