A Voice for the Voiceless
“The foundation of the offense of slavery is the objectification of an individual.” 1
Slavery in Israel
Natasha* was 21 when she was smuggled across the Egyptian border into Israel, after being told she would have a job caring for the elderly. This seemed a great offer compared to opportunities offered in her homeland, Belarus. Once in Israel, she was taken to a brothel in Tel Aviv, and forced to work as a prostitute for four years. She worked sixteen hours a day, every day, with no vacation. She got sick with hepatitis C, and ran away with one of her customers, who claimed he would take care of her. Natasha was abused by him both mentally and physically. She stayed with him for a while and has a daughter from him, who is an Israeli citizen. A few years ago, she left him and began raising her child on her own. She lives in a shelter for battered women and is working hard at a cleaning job, even though she constantly feels ill, and has no medical insurance to provide her with relief.
Natasha's ex-partner will not associate with the child, and she had to fight in court for him to acknowledge his relation to her daughter. She does not want to return to Belarus because she has no chance of receiving healthcare there, and may very well die of her sickness. She has no one to go back home to. There is a possibility that she will be put in an experimental program in a hospital in Tel Aviv. At JIJ, we are assisting Natasha with her legal status in Israel, so she can procure a "temporary residency" visa. Her daughter is Israeli, knows no other land, and doesn't want to go anywhere else.
Thousands of women, men and minors exist under conditions of modern day slavery in Israel . A network of international and internal human trafficking helps fuel the calculated one million male visits to brothels per month . This crisis began with the smuggling of thousands of women per year from the former Soviet Union over the Egyptian border, who were then sold to pimps and brothels throughout Israel’s major cities. While law enforcement efforts in the past few years have lowered these numbers, the problem has now shifted to Israeli women, being trafficked both internally and abroad, and the trafficking of Chinese women into Israel. The police have been more than negligent regarding these “non-classic” cases of human trafficking in Israel . In any case, nearly all victims of trafficking become depressed and traumatized, and have virtually no knowledge of their legal or social rights.
Many Israeli victims are forced into the industry between the ages of 12 and 15 by abusive male family members, while both domestic and international cases involve misleading newspaper advertisements and extreme poverty. Victims are enslaved by their employers through manipulations including drug addiction, overwhelming debt, threats to family, confiscation of travel documents, violence and intimidation.
Those trafficked for the sex industry are physically and psychologically abused, often become dependent on highly addictive substances, are transferred from one pimp to another, locked into brothels, raped, denied contraceptives and otherwise sexually exploited. In all respects these women are no longer considered human beings, but are treated as economic goods, as objects.
What we can do
In collaboration with the Freedom Foundation, JIJ has launched Project NOA - Not Objects Anymore. We have already started combating these issues through improving and promoting the social and legal rights of sex industry victims in Israel. At this stage, Project NOA is starting to address the current situation in three respects: through case-by-case legal representation, legislation, and education.
First - JIJ is assisting trafficked victims on a case-by-case basis. Many international victims have now given birth to Israeli citizens, yet are denied basic rights themselves. In addition, the Israeli government deals primarily with prosecuting international sex trafficking, leaving many internal trafficking victims without legislative support. JIJ is aiding immigrants rescued from the sex industry to gain legal status in Israel, while also providing pro bono legal representation for internal trafficking victims.
Second - There is a desperate need for a legislative reform concerning human trafficking. Currently, the government prosecutes the organized trafficking of humans while treating prostitution with impunity. As a result, internal trafficking victims are neglected by the government on the grounds that it is a “local,” decentralized phenomenon. In addition, the system legally permits Israeli policemen to visit prostitutes, destroying the opportunity for trafficked victims to approach law enforcement for aid. In partnership with other human rights organizations, JIJ is lobbying in the Knesset for legislation to extend the legal rights of trafficked victims from international to domestic cases, and to criminalize the consumption of sex services by members of law enforcement agencies.
Third - JIJ will bridge the communication gap between trafficked victims and rehabilitation services. Through our new one-on-one mentor system, JIJ will connect victims of human trafficking with social support and translation assistance. These mentors will be female university students, trained for rehabilitation services and will receive grants for their work. They will assist in translating legal papers, providing education about legal rights, and introduce the victims to shelters and other social services available.
No one should exist under conditions of slavery and sexual exploitation, yet this is the only reality for thousands of people in Israel today. It is an atrocity that must be addressed NOW, and JIJ is committed to using both its legal and social resources to help individuals while attempting to change a system that allows this to continue. But we can’t do this alone. Together with your support we can tangibly reduce human trafficking in Israel and provide a voice for those without a voice.
Thank you for partnering with us.
1 Hotline for Migrant Workers “No Harm was Caused to the Deceased: The Response of the Legal System to Human Trafficking in 2007.”
*Names, dates and locations have been changed for confidentiality purposes.
Once in Israel, she was taken to a brothel in Tel Aviv, and forced to work as a prostitute for four years
She does not want to return to Belarus because she has no chance of receiving healthcare there, and may very well die of her sickness
This crisis began with the smuggling of thousands of women per year from the former Soviet Union over the Egyptian border
In collaboration with the Freedom Foundation, JIJ has launched Project NOA - Not Objects Anymore
JIJ is committed to using both its legal and social resources to help individuals while attempting to change a system that allows this to continue