Wednesday, August 01, 2001

A-G calls for crackdown on trafficking in women

By Marion Marrache
The Jerusalem Post - August, 01 2001

NEVEH ILAN (August 1) - Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein yesterday called for a crackdown on trafficking in women, charging that law enforcement officials are not doing their job.
"We have to fight this phenomenon morally, socially, and legally... to aspire to uproot this phenomenon," Rubinstein said.
Rubinstein spoke at a conference held yesterday at Neveh Ilan on trafficking in women for prostitution. Also speaking at the conference, chaired by Internal Security Ministry adviser Hagai Herzl, were Internal Security Minister Uzi Landau, Deputy Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, Insp.-Gen. Shlomo Aharonishky, and Labor MK Yael Dayan.
Police investigations head Cmdr. Moshe Mizrahi said 3,000 trafficked prostitutes are currently in Israel and that numbers are on the rise. Insp.-Gen. Shlomo Aharonishky said that seven women were caught last night trying to enter Israel from Egypt.
Mizrahi expressed concern about how to protect women who decide to testify against their pimps. If they are repatriated, those who imported them will be able to find them; additionally, many are supporting children in their home countries whom they fear may be harmed. So far 31 women have agreed to testify and are receiving a monthly stipend of NIS 6,000.
Mizrahi called for a "serious operation" that would extend to the women's countries of origin.
Some two-thirds of the women brought here end up virtual captives and are physically and mentally mistreated. One-third eventually manage to get work in more established brothels where they only work 12 hours a day but still must foot the bill for their medical expenses.
Mizrahi said that 146 files involving brothels have been opened, and 23 women have appeared in court.
Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On called for the issue to be dealt with as soon as possible. Interior Ministry Director-General Mordechai Mordechai said he is appalled that this is happening in Israel, and that it is connected to the absence of proper regulations concerning foreign workers, who are often treated as slaves.
Seventy-five percent of the women who come from Ukraine, Moldova, and Russia understand that they will be working as prostitutes. The rest think they will be working as masseuses or in hotels. None, however, expect such mistreatment. They enter the country with false documents provided by the traffickers, which are then taken from them, and are kept virtual captives, and work 16 to 18 hours a day servicing between four and 25 clients. In addition, they are often sold to other pimps.
Tel Aviv District Attorney Miriam Rosenthal decried the lack of infrastructure that let the women back onto the street after coming to the police for help. Some of them manage to come to the police for help. "It's as if we didn't want to touch it."
Organization for Foreign Workers' Rights legal adviser Naomi Levenkron said that although police do spot checks for documents at apartments where the women are held, they often overlook false papers and never ask the women whether they want to be there.
Dep.-Cmdr. Avi Davidovitch, head of an inter-ministerial team established at Rubinstein's recommendation, mentioned the women's social-psychological plight. He said that few complaints were filed against pimps, whereas the number of trafficked women was high, and that many women either refuse to complain or retract their statements to police later in court. He called the situation "a war against Amalek without guns." Davidovitch added that thanks largely to Levenkron's work, every woman who does come forward is provided with a lawyer at the state's expense.
Prof. Julie Cwikel of Ben-Gurion University's Center for Women's Health Studies and Promotion supported "bringing some focus on occupational hazards and funding." She said that the women should be given more help than just AIDS testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. The women interviewed for Cwikel's study (as reported in yesterday's paper, "BGU publishes first study of local prostitutes") were those who "work in organized places. We cannot interview women held against their will. If the situation according to our study doesn't sound 'all that bad,' it's because we have looked at a small group in much better conditions."
(Itim contributed to this report.)

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