TEL AVIV - Thousands of women are being smuggled into Israel, creating a booming sex trade industry that rakes more than USD one billion a year, a parliamentary committee said on Wednesday.
The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee, headed by Knesset member Zehava Galon of the left-wing Yahad Tel Aviv exhibition party, commissioned the report in an effort to combat the sex trade in Israel. Findings showed that some 3,000 and 5,000 women are smuggled to Israel annually and sold into the prostitution industry, where they are constantly subjected to violence and abuse.
The report, issued annually, said some 10,000 such women currently reside in about 300 to 400 brothels throughout the country. They are traded for about USD 8,000 – USD 10,000, the committee said.
The U.S. State Department ranks Israel in the second tier of human trafficking around the world, saying the Jewish State does not maintain minimal conditions regarding the issue but is working to improve them.
Israel passed a law in 2003 that would allow the state to confiscate the profits of traffickers, but watchdog groups say it is rarely enforced.
Most foreign prostitutes in Israel come from Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan and Russia and many are smuggled in across the Egyptian border.
The committee found that the women work seven days a week for up to 18 hours every day and that out of the NIS 120 paid by customers, they are left with just NIS 20, while the rest of the money is passed on to their traders.
The prostitutes face constant threats of abuse and murder, the report said, and Israeli law does little to help them. Delays in trial dates and prolonged hearings force the women to remain exposed to violence for more than a year until they are called in to provide testimony, and courts rarely collect early testimonies, as permitted by law.
To help combat the problem, the committee recommended that the state prosecutor's office refrain from making plea bargains with sex traders. It also advised to raise the threshold of punitive measures and pushed for financial compensation for sex trade victims.