Over the objections of some government agencies and social welfare groups, a new Israeli law has gone into effect that makes it illegal to seek the services of a prostitute.
Under the terms of the law that went info effect Friday, first-time offenders will be fined about £418 ($530), The Times of Israel reported. If the offender repeats the crime again within two years, the amount of the fine would double.
LGBTQ and women’s rights groups had sought to delay the law’s implementation, as had the Community Empowerment and Advancement Minister Orly Levy-Abekasis and the Public Security Ministry.
“Women and men who enter the cycle of prostitution to earn a living cannot escape if the authorities don’t extend a hand,” said Hila Peer, chairperson of Aguda-The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, one of several groups that petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to delay the implementation.
But Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn declined to postpone.
“Women are not property and their bodies are not for rent at any price,” Nissenkorn tweeted Friday.
A 2016 government study estimated that Israel has about 12,000 sex workers and the industry is worth about £251m ($318 million) annually. In 2005, Israel was added to a U.S. State Department human trafficking watch list, but matters had improved enough by 2012 that the country was removed.