Illegal prostitution has become a huge problem in Israel in recent years, beginning in the late 90's and carrying on until today. Until the mid 2000s over 3,000 women were being brought into the country for sex trafficking every year, a staggering number considering the fact that many are lured in by gangs on the promise of work, smuggled over the border or simply abducted. Many came from Russian territories. 2007 even saw the country listed as one of the top trafficking destinations in the world, according to the BBC. The story, which was featured in November 2007, notes that Israeli officials were eventually forced into action after repeated pressure from the United States, which only happened after a grueling ten years of doing little to nothing in terms of law enforcement. Prostitution itself is legal, but pimping and brothels are not.
The numbers have gone down since then, at least in terms of foreign women being used as prostitutes. In response to a multinational lockdown on smuggling foreign women into the country, local brothel owners and pimps have begun to target Israeli girls instead. While the numbers are significantly lower, the internet arm of Israel's Haaretz newspaper notes that it is still considered a big problem. The article notes that while the number of illegal sex workers has gone down, the demand has not. Haaretz, the country's oldest newspaper, has little reason to skew the facts. Though the circulation is low, they are widely respected as one of the better Israeli news sources. For its part, Israel denies the issue of sex trafficking, with the police giving a prefabricated response of nonexistence to any inquiries into the subject. That said, they are cracking down much harder domestically than before. As previously stated, the number of foreign workers is down tremendously from only a few years prior.
Information poster on Ukranian Prostitutes in Israel
Legal prostitution, by contrast, has remained largely the same. While some independent sex workers are drafted by brothels or pimps, many remain in the same position they did before. This is despite a largely abolitionist legal approach to prostitution in general, as there are major loopholes in enforcement that allow both the legal and illegal sides of the industry to continue functioning. Technically legal regardless, the only hard laws against sex workers come in the form of anti-child pornography and advertising. Women are therefore arrested on technicalities, such as enticement and public exposure, at least according to a University of Rhode Island facts page that heavily borrows content from a 1997 CEDAW report. For instance, prostitution is legal, but being the client of a prostitute is not.
Israel Prostitute with "John"
Prostitution within the country is also heavily linked to drug abuse and alcoholism, with Women's News Net reporting that a statistically large number of both foreign and domestic workers are attracted to the business because of previous abuse or psychological issues. Most are women, but this number also includes transsexuals. A multitude of rehabilitation programs exist for former sex workers, but the problem is that young people continue to get sucked into the business out of desperation or because they are forced. Prostitution can even begin as young as 11 or 12 years old. Combating the myriad issues behind the problem itself, most officials agree, is the key to solving the problem. It just isn't clear how to put together such a concentrated effort. So, for now, individual organs exist to help. Some appear to be working, but the overall problem continues to fester.