Thursday, August 17, 2006

Trafficking Women in Israel

Protestors condemn women trafficking (Photo: Niv Kalderon)

Protest: Women cannot be bought like shawarma
By Merav Crystal
August 17, 2006

During Tel Aviv demonstration, former MK Yael Dayan calls for end to women trafficking; 'it's more than rape,' she says. Haifa representative says prostitutes forced to look for customers in city's streets during war, in spite of rockets

Women rights activists held a demonstration against women trafficking Wednesday, during which they chanted slogans such as "Police, women are not goods" and "Customers are rapists."

Activist congregated in Tel Aviv's Golomb Street in to commemorate the murder of four women in a bordello in 2000. Demonstrators protested outside a handful of brothels in the city.

"That's more than rape. Each and every one of these traded women here is potentially murdered. It's a disgrace for our country and society," said former MK Yael Dayan, the head of the welfare division at the Tel Aviv Municipality.

"Laws have been passes, a parliamentary committee and the objection continues. We thought the phenomenon would die out but unfortunately we are here again," she said.

Dayan blamed males for the sex industry: "These women are like goods, they can't save themselves. Men give them the right to live: Pimps and customers … it is unacceptable that as I can buy shawarma someone can buy a woman."

Esther Ilam, a founder of the Center for Victims of Sexual Assault, condemned the lack of implementation of laws against trade in women. "A study conducted lately showed that 80 percent of the Israeli public blame the pimps and 20 percent blame the customers," she said.

Business as usual in north

Protesters said in some area of Tel Aviv drug-addicted women sell themselves for NIS 20 (about USD 4.5) to overcome withdrawal symptoms.

The municipality offers assistance to women holding Israeli residency permits, leaving dozens of women short of basic health and support assistance.

Immigrants and residents of other Israeli cities are left out as they depend on their pimps and can't contact municipal authorities or the police.

Rita Hikin from the Woman for Woman feminist center in Haifa said that in July and early August pimps in Haifa sent their prostitutes to look for costumers on the city's street, ignoring the threat of rocket attacks.

The emergency situation in the city led the municipality to halt its assistance to sex workers, Hikin said, adding that pimps refused center workers to speak to prostitutes in the city.

'Police see prostitution as something natural'

Not only women were there. Gilad, 28, of Tel Aviv, came to show support for the protesters.

"It's sick to say prostitution is a matter of free choice," he said.

Ephraim Bar, one of the organizers, explained why brothels are so plentiful when there is a law that bans them.

"There is no problem to close all clubs (brothels) in Israel withing two hours. But the police turn a blind eye because brothel owners are police agents. They report on crime and prostitutes are the victims. Police consider theft and drugs are more serious offenses than offenses against women," he said.


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