Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sex trafficking in Israel

This is from a recent BBC article on the problem of trafficking in women to Israel:

During the height of the phenomenon, from the beginning of the 1990s to the early years of 2000, an estimated 3,000 women a year were brought to Israel on the false promise of jobs and a better way of life.

Last year, the United Nations named Israel as one of the main destinations in the world for trafficked women; it has also consistently appeared as an offender in the annual US State Department's Trafficking in Persons (Tip) report. [Tier Two Watchlist- the same as Ukraine]

In all cases, the traffickers - as many as 20 in the chain from recruitment to sale - take away the women's passports before selling them on to pimps. Sometimes the women are subjected to degrading human auctions, where they are stripped, examined and sold for $8,000-$10,000.

Rinat Davidovych, the director of the Maagan Shelter in Tel-Aviv, is someone who travels the world in the effort to fight human traffiking. She was interviewed for this BBC article:

For years, Israel treated trafficked women as criminals"When they come here they are in a bad condition," said Rinat Davidovich, the shelter's director.

"Most have sexual diseases and some have hepatitis and even tuberculosis. They also have problems going to sleep because they remember what used to happen to them at night," she said. "It's very hard and it's a long procedure to start to help and treat them."

I was lucky enough to have her as a guest in my family's home last year in Buffalo. This year, I bumped into her at a conference in Kyiv where she presented a host of information about trafficking in Israel. Rinat broke down the statistics of origin for Israel's sex trafficking victims- Ukraine 21.45%, Moldova 11.24%, Russia 9.2%, and Uzbekistan 5.11%, and now recently, victims are coming from China as well. She also did a thorough review of Israel's anti-trafficking laws. Up until 2006, the law only included women sex victims and protection was only offered to victims if they agreed to testify against their traffickers and pimps. Now, following the threat of sanctions against Israel by the United States, Israel has stepped up their efforts and has included a broader range of trafficking victims under national law. Rinat says that soon, the same protection given to victims of sex trafficking will be provided for those of labor trafficking.

The shelter she directs is a state shelter, and at the moment, only provides assistance to female victims of sex trafficking. Victims must be brought to the shelter by police, or if an ngo refers a victim, they must do so through the police. The shelter provides additional rights to the victim including full medical services, weekly allowances, temporary residence visas, and work placement. Rinat was overloaded with questions about why the state response was so weak, some of which seemed like they were more questions about why she works for the state shelter as opposed to the ngos. Rinat seemed more hopeful though that through her position, she is able to keep in contact with both ngos and the government, and that she is able to facilitate communication between both.

One of the things she mentioned has changed though, is that because of the crackdown on sex trafficking in Israel, more of the prostitution and, by extent, the trafficking victims have been moved underground. Now, instead of a place quite obviously being a brothel, it is hidden either as a massage parlor or sauna, forcing ngos to find more creative ways of reaching victims.

For more information on human trafficking in Israel, click here.


  1. I am also a Buffalonian who from time to time does international law and human rights, have we ever met and if not we should. Do you know Julia Hall, she is General Council for Human Rights Watch and lives in Buffalo as well?

    -Leo singh

  2. No, I don't believe we've met. You are welcome to email me. My address is on my profile.

  3. Anonymous3:39 AM

    very informative.

    - desha.singh

  4. Anonymous1:58 AM

    There are more houses of sexual slavery in Israel than any place on earth per capita. the U.S. State Dept. knows this but looks the other way. I wonder how the jews would feel if it was their daughters? Listen to what the nice jewish ladies in Israel have to say-Better theirs then ours.Look at all the top russian mafia bosses last names all jewish. How fast would the U.S. react if it was their daughters? Its worse there than you can imagine