Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Israel: Prohibition of Online Distribution of Sexual Images Without Consent

(Jan. 10, 2014) On January 6, 2014, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) approved an amendment to the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law, 5758-1998 (hereinafter the PSH Law). (PSH Law 5758-1998, SEFER HAHUKIM [Official Gazette], No. 1661 at 166, as amended; PSH Law (Amendment No. 10), 5774-2014, the Knesset website, [scroll down to appropriate link; hereinafter the Amendment].)

According to the Amendment, the distribution of still pictures or video recordings of a person’s image that focuses on his/her sexuality, including by editing or incorporation, is unlawful if made:

1. without the person’s consent;

2. in a way that facilitates identification of the person; and

3. under circumstances that may degrade or shame him/her. (The Amendment, supra.)

The distribution of such an image constitutes sexual harassment under section 3(a) of the PSH Law and intentional harm to a person’s privacy under section 5 of the Protection of Privacy Law (35 LAWS OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL 136 (5741-1980/81)), as amended. The crimes are punishable with five years of imprisonment, in addition to subjecting the perpetrator to civil liability and the duty to pay monetary compensation to the victim. (Id.; PSH Law.)

The Amendment recognizes the following defenses against civil or criminal liability in connection with the distribution of sexual images:

1. that the distribution was made in good faith, considering the circumstances and the content, form, scope, and objective of the images;

2. that the distribution was made for a lawful purpose; or

3. that the distribution was correct and justified under the circumstances, based on the public interest, or the fact that the images contained an inherent opinion or criticism of a public official in connection with his/her official position and did not deviate from what would be considered reasonable in order to achieve such an objective. (The Amendment, adding § 5A(a-c) to the PSH Law.)

Knesset Member Yifat Kariv reportedly proposed the legislation after learning of an incident in which a man posted to the mobile messaging application WhatsApp a video of himself and his ex-girlfriend having sex. The video was then shared with tens of thousands of people. According to Kariv, the posting of sexually explicit images “could ruin the lives of people and young girls, some of whom develop suicidal tendencies or become unwitting porn stars as a result.” (Jonathan Lis, Israel Bans Posting Nude Photos, Sex Films Online, HAARETZ (Jan. 6, 2014).)

Kariv further stated:

We are witnessing more and more cases of sexual assaults that were filmed and distributed in public without restraint and without limits; this legislative intervention is necessary and will help fight the shocking phenomenon of ‘virtual rape,’ … .

It is clear to us that the pace of legislation always lags behind the technical and virtual reality in which we live. This is a law that is a breakthrough both from the legislative standpoint and also from the normative and ethical standpoint. This is a great achievement for the victims of sec [sic] crimes. (Id.)