Should prostitution be legalized in Israel?

Haaretz is reporting on a survey indicating that 65% of Israelis believe prostitution should be legalized
At first, it seems like Israeli society has reached a new moral low. But read this:

A prostitute who had been a victim of trafficking testified that since arriving in Israel by way of Romania, under a false name, she was bought and sold five times. She said she was forced to receive between seven and 15 clients a day, each of whom paid her NIS 150, and all of which was taken by her pimp.
“I was treated like trash, as if I were an object,” she said. “I got to the point where I thought I had no life.”

Israelis aren’t necessarily voicing their support for the trade itself, but rather for ending the inhumane and illegal treatment these women are receiving at the hands of pimps and traffickers. Still, I think a crack-down on the scum that are abusing these women is more socially appropriate than giving the prostitutes their working papers.

25 thoughts on “Should prostitution be legalized in Israel?

  1. “A new moral low”? It is immoral for a government to prevent consenting adults from engaging in any private act of intimacy, whether or not payment is involved. I agree with the majority of those surveyed: prostitution should be legalized.

  2. I appreciate your point, but I still think certain acts qualify as wrong and indefensible. Selling your body for money is one of those– it’s highly degrading and exploitative.
    You could make the same libertarian argument against the illegality of dealing and buying crack or against regulation of the tobacco industry. I think it’s a democratic government’s responsibility to define certain social boundaries.

  3. You are right, I would probably make the same argument to legalize drugs, too.
    I agree that a government has a responsibility to define certain social boundaries to protect the physical well-being of people, but sex is a most personal issue and it is no one’s business to judge if these acts of privacy are degrading or exploitative. It is a personal decision one should have the right to make for his or her own body.
    By the same governing logic, freak shows should be illegal, too, because they are degrading and exploitative. And so should pornography. Why do we draw the line at prostitution? Is an act of prostitution legal if those involved film their private moment and sell it to the public?

  4. Wow! Prostitution is a ‘moral wrong’, what nonsense! When did the Christian right invade Jewschool?
    Prostitution cannot be ‘gotten rid of’ nor can it be moralized away as you pathetically try to. Someone will ALWAYS be selling themselves. Societies without prohibitions on prostitutes like France for instance make it possible for prostitutes to not only unionize but also to run their own businesses. Where prostitution is illegal, it thrives, even if you crack down on ‘pimps’, the vast majority of prostitutes turn to it as a waged profession, in other words to eat. So in this sense it makes a lot more sense to talk about abolishing capitalism, the INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF HUNGER, than abolishing prostitution.
    Read some Emma, jeez…

  5. well…Sphinx is right but it is better after all to legalize prostitution …at least some women will not be abused anymore…

  6. The Christian Right? That’s an obnoxious thing to say. Prostitution is illegal in many many places. It’s a profession that has the ability to cause severe social deterioration, and it really ought not to be supported as a good option for “an honest day’s work.” You can say that I’m being conservative on this issue, but not Christian.
    The women involved do need to be protected. In this case, I feel the best way to limit the abuse is to limit the traficking. That is, many women, according to the article, are being forced into sex slavery– believe me, if you’re a slave, you can’t unionize anyway.

  7. The Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal to sell or possess pornography of children under 18(obviously). However, they took a brave step to add that it is legal to own or sell computer generated or “cartoon” pornography of minors. This ruling was made not because the porn was expoitive or immoral, but made to protect the children from harm. They did not want to limit satisfaction one gets from veiwing the material, just to protect the possibly unwilling victims.
    I agree with this ruling – therefore I agree that prostitution should be illegal not because of the moral aspect, but to protect the women that are often times unwillingly involved. Show me the data that there are less sex slaves in countries that legalize prostitution than countries that don’t. Only under that condition will I agree that prostitution does not harm the prostitutes.

  8. Prostitution is wrong. I’ll say that right off the bat. Paying someone for sex is wrong (even if that payment is dinner and a movie). Of course, I also believe sex is something that should be confined to marriage, but at the very LEAST I think people should be held to the standard of having sexual relations in a purely consentual environment where each partner has an equal leverage/say. Now, when one is paying and one is getting paid, this balance of power is compromised, and therefore is not fully consentual.
    These women are akin to slaves…if they are so desperate for the money, why doesn’t someone set up organizations to aid these women move out of this life of sexual servitude…freeing those in bondage, redeeming the captives, that’s what they should be doing…not formally recognizing this evil.

  9. Jewschool, I am truly surprised at your very old fashioned attitude. I can only surmise that you have not given this much thought and therefore were caught off guard when making a statement that “society has reached a new moral low” by legalizing prostitution.
    Legalizing prostitution not only serves to ensure that these women are not abused, but empowers them to create a better situation for themselves. Ben Baruch expressed it best – it is a dangerous idea to let government be involved in its citizens’ sex life or recreational preferences.

  10. An earlier version of this article that has since been supplanted online detailed who was in favor of the legalization (likud MKs) and who was against (Meretz MKs and women’s rights advocates). That’s all I need to know.

  11. Enigma
    A) You misread my post. What I intended was that it seems to be a new moral low, but the data suggests that Israelis are interested in protecting the women, not the profession (most of them were opposed to the profession, generally). I am trying to argue that there is a better way to protect the women. If having moral standards is “old fashioned” than so be it.
    B) Ben Baruch added a very interesting site from the US gov’t on prostitution. To quote it, “To fight human trafficking and promote equality for women, Sweden has aggressively prosecuted customers, pimps, and brothel owners since 1999. As a result, two years after the new policy, there was a 50 percent decrease in women prostituting and a 75 percent decrease in men buying sex. Trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation decreased as well.[6] In contrast, where prostitution has been legalized or tolerated, there is an increase in the demand for sex slaves[7] and the number of victimized foreign women—many likely victims of human trafficking.[8]”
    Ben– still believe it should be legalized?

  12. We see no distinction: as with Prohibition it is the inept ham-handed legal policy that makes possible the petty reign of the pimp. As a matter of fact, how often are ten years of American Prohibition cited of proof of how wrong legal reform can sometimes be, and yet for how many millenia has prostitution been a more stunning case?
    a very interesting site from the US gov’t — would this be the same US govn’t behind prohibition, the War on Drugs, AIDs through tears, marijuana equalling heroin, dissolving scientific panels that fail to find correct results and anstinence-only education? Are you not aware of the very overt and aggressive attack on integrity and good faith by the present administration?
    The truth is that prostitution will always be with us, that we owe it morally to our fellow humans to make it as safe and dignified as possible, and that one thing that gets left out (especially by dishonest ideologues) is the matter of totally denying women reasonable alternatives and then being shocked when they try to feed their children. In Thailand you can make nearly nothing while slaving (keep in mind that this option necessarily includes failing to make enough for your family and presupposes failure, but is nevertheless taken for granted to be the respectable one by the “moral”), or you can prostitute and make money. While this is not so much the case in Israel, it is a way of guaranteeing prostitution.
    Really the parallel is that of the fake illegal immigration “issue” — the immigrants could be stopped at any time by attacking the wealthy Republicans who use them as near-slaves.

  13. KY
    Your cynicism is a little disheartening– so EVERYTHING the gov’t says is automatically untrustworthy? The report points to interesting foreign examples.
    Whether prostitution is “with us” or not is not the issue. Society has an obligation to set its own moral limits. Just because a behavior is repeated from generation to generation does not necessarily make it morally acceptable– take, for instance, violence against innocents.
    If the society believes that it’s wrong to accept payment for sex and that it’s wrong to pay for sex, then its duty, through elected gov’t, is to try to limit that activity. Society needs to prevent the deterioration of its moral fabric.
    Of course every person deserves dignity and safety, but that doesn’t mean that every profession is legal or acceptable.

  14. Prostitution, using drugs, etc. are all wrong. However, making it illegal forces people involved in such trade to find extra-judicial methods of enforcement. The problem is that the superior enforcers can demand more than what is contracted – a pimp exploits his prostitutes and a dealer doesn’t let a customer get clean. The result is that the weaker parties involved become slaves to the stronger parties. Legalization exposes these relationships to judicial enforcement of contracts and the physically stronger (and morally weaker) party can no longer impose extra-contractual terms on the other party. Basically, it gives victims in illegal trade a way out and a way to avoid exploitation without resorting to retributive violence.

  15. Sphinx, I find it interesting that your argument that moving prostitution from an anarchic environment (the black market) to a capitalistic one (the legal market where there are enforceable contracts and property rights) somehow lends support to Emma Goldman and opposition to capitalism – what a mixed-up world you live in.

  16. Ronen, yes, I do still believe prostitution should be legalized. There is evidence to support that smoking leads to cancer, gambling leads to financial ruin, and drinking leads to drunk driving, but making these vices illegal has never been a viable option. We’ve got to educate and deal with those who abuse the system, not punish everyone for crimes that a few might commit.

  17. For anyone who hasen’t seen them yet, I recomend watching Nicholas Kristof’s multimedia op -ed pieces for the NYTimes. he has several stories on Sex Slaves that are moving and show the realistic struggles these women go through. If we end hunger and poverty we can stop a lot of prositution.
    Shmuel, there are pleny of organazations that try to end this type of prositution. I hope we all find it in our hearts to donate a little money to them.

  18. anarchic environment (the black market)
    This is a seriously screwy phrase: if anything criminal organizations and “stables” are quite far from anything like anarchy. One of the hallmarks of the black market is the fantastic monarchy the seller enjoys in setting prices!
    so EVERYTHING [this] gov’t says is automatically untrustworthy?
    Living under Commander Cuckoo Bananas and having wasted four years of our lives in the marines, unequivocally, YES. They Never Stop Lying. About anything. Do you not see our examples or do you not believe them? Marijuana is the same as heroin. Bombing Nicaruagua/Iraq/Vietnam into the stone age will make it democratic. Christians are persecuted by being forced to see things that annoy them. Et al.
    It is undeniably true that society sets its meaningless, sneering limits as a way of rewarding one criminal and crucifying a other for the same crime; our point was the cruelty in allowing a “free market” where regulation could at least ensure more humane conditions.

  19. I’m no big fan of the right wing k/y. But that’s a really myopic viewpoint you just expressed there.

  20. Ronen. Sweden has made purchasing and pimping illegal. It has decriminalized the prostitutes themselves. The trouble with this debate is that people only think their are two views on the issue. Most laws against prostitution are enforced against prostitutes themselves and this is wrong. It is like arresting black slaves for slavery.
    Having said that this list is much more sensitized than the official democrat blogs like DU and Daily Kos. They all sound like a bunch of radical free market fundamentalist like Baruch, when it comes to trafficking and female slavery{prostitution}!

  21. K&Y – Anarchy says nothing about the relative status of buyers and sellers. It is different from egalitarianism. Under anarchy, the people with the power and the will to do something will rule those who lack the power and the will to stop it. Your anarchist idealism that anarchy results in egalitarian social relationships is naive. Because it is illegal, prostitution is not regulated not by the laws of a government, but by the will of thugs. That is the reality of anarchism. I used to consider anarcho-capitalism the ideal social organization, but I know now that anarchy cannot lend itself to the defense of individual rights. Anarchy sounds nice when laid out as a utopian ideal, but ultimately such ideals are just pipe dreams.

  22. Under anarchy, the people with the power and the will to do something will rule those who lack the power and the will to stop it.
    This is so completely ignorant that the best solution would be to just replace “anarchy” above with (apparently) “Bolshevism.” How else to explain this troublesome verb “ruled”? What on earth definition of Anarchism are you working with that you see no problem with the verb ruled?!
    Because it is illegal, prostitution is not regulated not by the laws of a government, but by the will of thugs. That is the reality of anarchism.
    No, that would make it very much not-anarchism, most likely oligarchy or a kind of petty monarchism. Your definitio is only acceptable if we presuppose severe cynicism: imagine if we insisted that Judaism entailed as a matter of definition lying, because after all sooner or later all Jews tell a lie? It’s uselessly cynical. Something tells us the basis of your cynicism has a hell of a lot less to do with the “idealism” of our anarchic musings and much more to do with your own, especially this totally impossible construction “anarcho-capitalism” (shades of Ayn Rand? “Individualist anarchism”?). No, expecting a utopia tomorrow would be stupid, and we don’t recall doing so: expecting crime to get better by facilitating it would be better?

  23. israel has been at an all time low since sharon declared the disengagement plan. nothing surprises me anymore

  24. for those keeping score. “k&y” advocated government regulation as an answer to he problems attendant on prostitution exacerbated by allowing criminal monopoly, and “yisrael” rebutted by calling ky idealists for proposing anarchy as a soultion.
    government regulation
    government regulation
    apparently, “k&y” are themselves anarchists; this must be why they’re advocating legalization, taxation and government regulation…

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