Speaker of the Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein: ”This is a celebratory meeting for a topic that is very sad.” There will be extra shelter for women affected by trafficking starting in a few weeks. Women hurt by trafficking can receive medical care at any clinic, with the approval from the Health Ministry.
”The Committee on Trafficking in Women and Prostitution fights for women who don`t have any lobby,” said Minister of the Interior Gideon Sa`ar, ”There aren`t many topics where the Knesset has a crucial role, but this activity has created a legacy for the Knesset. The massive difference in the arena of trafficking would not have occurred without the involvement of the Knesset, which has been internationally recognized by the American State Department. This started as a parliamentary inquiry committee under the auspices of MK Zehava Gal-On during the 15th Knesset. It was accompanied by significant legislative achievements during Arik Sharon`s time as Prime Minister and continues today with the hard work of MKs from Meretz to HaBayit HaYehudi. This coalition is important to guarantee that the matter remains a priority.
Speaker of the Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein came to celebrate the 10th anniversary: ”This is a celebratory meeting for a topic that is very sad. Someone who doubts what the Knesset is capable of should look at the initiative of MK Zehava Gal-On. I remember how I was ashamed when Israel was put high up on the list of countries in which there was trafficking in woman and for a good reason. Many people joined MK Gal-On`s initiative from the coalition and the opposition, amongst them MK Yuri Stern and MK Marina Solodkin of blessed memories.”
Speaker of the Committee MK David Tsur: ”In the 90s we were witnesses to trafficking involving somewhere between a thousand and three thousand women that were brought here from different countries. The success in reducing the problem and even possibly totally ending it must be credited the coordination of all of the agencies – legislative, enforcement, judicial, welfare, education and oversight of all of these by the Knesset committee. There is no vacuum. The committee received a mandate from the Speaker of the Committee on the Status of Women, MK Aliza Lavie to also work on prostitution, from the understanding that prostitution is not voluntary, but another mode of trafficking. The committee oversees the enforcement, the treatment and the rehabilitation processes. The enforcement is problematic because we don`t want to create two fold victims by punishing women involved in prostitution a second time. There are a number of laws on the agenda that we must pass, including prosecuting customers, increasing the forfeiture fund and the ability to sue without proof of damage.”
During the debate lawyer Yasmine Konpino, head of the refuges for victims of female trafficking, said that the third shelter for victims of trafficking will be opened in the coming weeks, after an appropriate building was found. The number of women who need shelter has gone up recently because the Justice Ministry freed women who were imprisoned in the Sahronim facility. In the new refuge, 18 women will be protected who are now in the general community, being protected by family members. Today there are 27 victims of trafficking staying with community members. Some of them will be absorbed into the already existing shelters, after the women staying there today move to halfway houses. In the Sahronim facility, there are still 2 women who are victims of trafficking. As an intermediate solution until the new refuge is open, a new center has been established in the Tel Aviv municipality, whose role is to locate women in danger. Those who are identified as being in danger will enter the shelter in the next week.
Women in the shelters receive full medical care. Women spread around the community do not benefit from temporary medical care because they are not able to get care from clinics. The health ministry pays for their care in hospitals throughout Israel, when approved beforehand.
MK Zehava Gal-On, the innovator and first speaker of the Committee: ”We worked to eliminate trafficking in women, but an illusion was created that prostitution is ok, as if women are free to choose what to do and that there are those who choose prostitution. We need to uproot this mindset that is widely held in the media. The time has come to confront the customers with the price of prostitution. Prostitution is sexual violence and those who want to legalize prostitution want to turn the state into a mighty pimp. Our next challenge is prosecuting customers of prostitutes and the establishment of a support system for people trying to leave the cycle of prostitution.”
Amnon Bem-Ami, Director General of the Population and Immigration Authority: ”The good management in the last few years is owed to the intense governmental work, led by Meirav Shmueli, the police and various assistance organizations. This is an example that when there is good government coordination, there are quick results. We need to continue to stand watch. The authority`s employees go through training in order to locate instances of trafficking. Today there is great awareness amongst the workers.”
For the debate, the Center for Research and Information of the Knesset prepared a review of the activities of Israel in fighting human trafficking.