Israel is in the top category for battling human trafficking for the fifth year in a row, Knesset Subcommittee on Combatting Human Trafficking and Prostitution chairwoman Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said Wednesday, presenting a US State Department report on the matter to representatives from Norway, Albania and the US.
“The US government recognized our continuing success in fighting human trafficking,” Lavie said. “But that does not mean we can stop fighting.”
Lavie said Israel created a system of cooperation between government offices, such that information flows in the field in real-time, and the progress must continue until there is no more human trafficking in the world.
The committee also described the various centers in Israel that help victims of human trafficking.
Daniel Marks, of the Justice Ministry’s international department, said said Israel has many positive policies, but pointed to two negatives.
On the positive side was the amount of investigations and indictments, protection for victims, including shelters and aid programs, as well as the Knesset subcommittee’s activities, and other factors.
However, the report said that Israeli courts do not give serious enough punishments for trafficking crimes and that immigrants who are victims of human trafficking are often not recognized as such and sent to prison.
State Attorney’s Office representative Rachel Zuarets-Levy said: “Trafficking patterns today are softer than in the past. Violence dropped, women’s passports are not taken from them anymore, and they know why they’re coming to Israel. They also receive half of the fee for sexual services, unlike in the past.”
Because of these changed factors, the courts give lighter punishments, Zuarets-Levy said.
Albanian Deputy Interior Minister Elona Gjebrea brought a delegation with her to the Knesset to learn about Israel’s policies. She also met with Dina Dominitz, managers of the department on combatting human trafficking in the Justice Ministry.
Norwegian Ambassador Jon Hanssen-Bauer described his countries policies on the matter. He said that in 2009, Norway made it illegal to pay for sex, and since then, there has been a 25 percent decrease in prostitution. There is a constant public debate on the matter, Hanssen-Bauer added, and sex workers are concerned that they will be considered criminals.
Lavie said that it is unfortunate that Israel does not yet have a law making it illegal to hire a prostitute.
“Even though we almost eradicated human trafficking, it is no secret that the prostitution rate is raising, even though, according to research, 75 percent of prostitutes want to stop,” Lavie said. “It’s also known that 95% of women dealing in prostitution were victims of sexual abuse.”
Lavie called for the government to help women leave prostitution.
“These women are victims of society, and society must give them back their dignity and allow them to continue to live,” she said.