The Knesset Committee on the Status of Women held a meeting on Tuesday, December 22, on the role of the tourist industry in combating the trafficking of women. “There’s a firm connection today between tourism and prostitution, as Israeli hotels are becoming places where women provide sex services,” said the committee chairwoman Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List).
The Tourism Ministry’s legal adviser, Sharon Meir, told the panel that the ministry regularly holds seminars on this issue for hotels, and the travel agents’ association has adopted a code of ethics to prevent the trafficking of women. But the Israel Hotels’ Association has yet to adopt the code, she said.
A Justice Ministry representative, Dr. Merav Shmueli, said that authorities in her ministry are divided over what legal responsibility hotels bear for what happens inside their rooms. Seeing that, nowadays, most prostitutes from abroad arrive legally as tourists rather than being smuggled into the country, the legal situation is less clear, she said. Haaretz reported last week that ever since Israel stopped requiring tourist visas from Ukraine and Russia, the number of prostitutes arriving here as tourists has risen dramatically. The result, said a government source, is that prostitution now occurs less in brothels and apartments or on the streets and more in hotels “which either turn a blind eye or, in the worst cases, actually earn money from it.”