Sexuality :: Sexual Trafficking in Israel

Trafficking in women for sexual exploitation has existed in Israel since the early 1990s. The breakup of the Soviet Union led to increased economic impoverishment of women and rendered them vulnerable to being trafficked for forced prostitution or for being enticed into working in prostitution abroad without realizing the actual conditions they would face. In May of 2000, Amnesty International Israel published a highly critical report which exposed this fact that women were being trafficked for sexual exploitation in Israel. The Knesset (the Israeli parliament) quickly responded by passing Amendment No. 56 to their penal code, expressly prohibiting trafficking in women for purposes of prostitution.

Israel is a destination country for women trafficked from Eastern European (the majority from Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Belarus and Russia) countries for sexual exploitation. NGOs (non-governmental organizations) estimate that 1-3,000 women are trafficked into Israel annually for sexual servitude. Trafficking in women worldwide occurs at the local, regional, and global levels and all three levels are seen in Israel; global trafficking of women from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, regional trafficking from Egypt into Israel, and local trafficking from the southernmost port of entry of Eilat in Israel to the northern areas where the greatest concentration of brothels can be found.

Until the year 2000, women were brought in by airport or harbor as tourists or immigrants using forged documents. Women of Eastern European descent were not suspected as atypical regular immigrants to Israel as countries of the former Soviet Union gave special visas for Jewish emigration because of anti-Semitism. Increased diligence by border security in response to awareness of how the traffickers were taking advantage of these visas to smuggle women into the country has reduced the numbers of women brought in by plane to 17%. Now 72% of the women are trafficked through Egypt (the country of transit), where they easily pass border control by flight and then are smuggled into Israel through the Egyptian Sinai Desert. These women are smuggled across the Egyptian border along with goods, drugs, weapons and migrant workers by the Bedouin tribes that live on both sides of the border. 78% of the traffickers coordinating the effort are non-native born Israelis with dual citizenship with countries of the former Soviet Union, which facilitates their ability to operate in both the source and destination countries. The Israeli traffickers are affiliated with the network of organized criminal organizations in Israel, who are connected to Eastern European based international organized crime syndicates.