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A government plan to rehabilitate sex workers has yet to be implemented as most of the funding for the program has not been disbursed, a newspaper report said Sunday. The project, which was drafted by numerous ministries and approved in January, mandated the establishment of group homes and recovery programs for prostitutes, the expansion of designated medical facilities and the drawing up of educational plans for promoting sexual health and curbing abuse, among other programs.
Its approval came shortly after the Knesset passed a law penalizing the solicitation of prostitution. It only began transferring portions of the funds to the Health Ministry two weeks ago and has yet to send any money to the Education Ministry, both of which are also involved in the program. Illustrative: Police raid a brothel whose owners are suspected of human trafficking on August 28, Israel Police Due to the budgetary delays, the ministries responsible for implementing the plan have yet to do so.
The Treasury rejected the blame and said the Welfare Ministry had received the money several months ago, according to the report. The Coalition Against Prostitution in Israel, which includes both government and nongovernmental organizations , expressed concern the funding delays could cause the July start date for the law banning the solicitation of prostitution to be pushed off.
The purpose of the plan was to help sex workers find alternate livelihoods, as part of the legislation that will criminalize procuring the services of a prostitute. Though pimping, sex trafficking, and running a brothel are punishable under existing Israeli law, prostitution itself remains legal. The idea of outlawing johns and pimps but not prostitution was first introduced by Sweden in its Sex Purchase Act — since adopted by Norway, Iceland, Canada, France, and Northern Ireland — which requires consumers to pay a fine or face up to six months in jail.
Defending the apparent contradiction in making buying sex illegal, but selling it legal, Sweden has contended that prostitution is essentially an act of exploitation and violence by the customers, who hold a position of power and should bear the brunt of the penalty.