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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Middle East

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Women for Sale in Tel Aviv

October 21, 2010 - 9:37 AM | by: Reena Ninan

She’s blonde.  Petite.  Blue-eyed with delicate features.

Women for Sale, Tel Aviv, Israel

“Sophia,” 30, was just one of fifteen women up for sale in a Tel Aviv shopping mall this week.  This wasn’t a real sale, but an exhibition to draw attention to female trafficking.  The display was sponsored by the Israeli Task Force Against Human Trafficking. Real women were put on display with price tags ranging from $5,500- $11,000.

The woman who pretended to be “Sophia” wore makeup that made her look like she had a black eye to highlight the cruelty towards women that trafficking also generates.

Rita, Age 19, 55 Kg, only 29,200 NIS

“It’s the least I can do. These women are the weakest in Israel society,” said Maya Speer, attorney and human rights activist, who pretended to be “Sophia.” ”They are slaves, and no one should be slaves.”

Speer said she felt anger and sadness while standing in the display window as shoppers looked at her. Random price tags were attached to the women who posed as prostitutes.

Those who happened to see the store display were asked to sign a petition calling on the Israeli justice minister to accept a bill that would prosecute people who pay money for sex. Prostitution in Israel is currently illegal but


Women for Sale exhibition, Tel Aviv

there is no law that goes after clients or the owners of brothels.  The hope is that this new law might reduce the number of trafficked women coming into Israel.

As part of the bill, organizers say clients who pay for sex would receive a six-month jail sentence.  The point is to target those who solicit the services of prostitutes and not punish the prostitutes themselves.

This strategy has been used in the United States and some states have seen a decline in prostitution.

According to the Israeli Task Force Against Human Trafficking, Israel is considered a popular country for trafficking for women from the former Soviet Union.  Many of them come through the country’s border with Egypt. Sometimes Bedouin smugglers transport the women across the Sinai desert into Israel. By some estimates as many as 3,000 women live in Israel and work as prostitutes, but because of the secretive nature of human trafficking exact figures are hard to get.

Once they arrive in Israel they are sold and resold to brothel owners, who demand they work 14-18 hours a day. They are forced to receive between 10-15 clients a day–usually for next to no money at all.

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