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Palestinian NGO urges the PA to adopt law regarding forced prostitution as sexual violence

“A study on Trafficking and Forced Prostitution of Palestinian Women and Girls: Forms of Modern Day Slavery, conducted by Sawa Center with support of UNIFEM recommended to advocate for a law by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) [PA Parliament] referring to forced prostitution as sexual violence and guaranteeing that girls and women are treated as victims of the crime and not as offenders.
The study, considered the first of its kind, also recommended developing a new and in depth research exploring the dimensions of prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes in and from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt), document cases of forced prostitution and women and girls trafficking for sexual purposes…
The paper emphasized the necessity of supporting international movements advocating for the adoption of a more inclusive definition of human trafficking, including internal trafficking.
It also called on Palestinian governmental institutions to draft, with the active involvement of the Palestinian civil society organizations and, in particular, women’s organizations, a law to be adopted by the Palestinian Legislative Council [PA Parliament] referring to forced prostitution as sexual violence and guaranteeing that girls and women are treated as victims of the crime and not as offenders, and to support Palestinian law enforcement officers with the necessary training and guidance to deal with and protect women and girls victims of sexual exploitation in a manner respectful of their human rights.
In addition, the paper demanded Civil society organizations and Palestinian governmental institutions together to develop, as a preventative measure, awareness raising programs, targeting men, women and youth, on issues related to forced prostitution, human trafficking, women human rights as well as consequences of prostitution and trafficking on the victims, as well as to establish and continue support services, including safe houses, for the protection and reintegration of women and girls victims of prostitution and trafficking.
The issue of trafficking of Palestinian women is a despicable crime and a human rights abuse, and has for many years remained a hushed taboo.
This briefing paper…focused Six case-studies (two cases of fathers selling their daughters, three cases of traffickers, a case of a woman working in prostitution) were tackled with the aim of breaking the silence around the issue while focusing on possible trafficking routes: from the West Bank to Jerusalem; from Gaza to Jerusalem; and within the West Bank.

Some business[es] that enjoy legal status, are in reality prostitution venues which offer sexual services to men. Our sources have asserted that there are some cases of legally registered hotels and cleaning companies that in reality are clandestine prostitution venues with various forms of illegal prostitution activities offered to men. For example, a client can contact a cleaning company, which operates also as a sex service company whereby a woman is sent to the client to clean the designated house. After cleaning, the woman will also have sex.
Yet others are underground prostitution enterprises, operating out of private residences and discreet apartments and run mainly by Palestinian women, who are referred to as Madams or pimps. This is the case of the clandestine business known as mobile prostitution services, where women working in prostitution in Israel who are originally from Eastern Europe, mainly from Russia and Ukraine, are trafficked into the West Bank.
According to the case studies presented here, most of the victims are in their early 20s, though in some reported cases the victims were as young as 12 and 14, or in their 30s and 40s. Most of the victims are mainly university students from Palestinian colleges and universities who come from accommodated families. There are also a number of identified cases, especially in Ramallah, of teenage school girls working in prostitution.
Most of the identified and researched cases of trafficked women and those working in prostitution have been violently abused by their families, especially their fathers. According to their testimonies, they refer to prostitution as a mean to escape the violence and abuse they face at their homes. The three face-to-face interviews with trafficked women as well as the information about women working in prostitution that was gathered from key informants have revealed that these women were battered continuously and forced into marriage (either legally or urfi marriage) or out of school at an early age for those who didn’t continue their education.

Researches have also proved that some of the victims were either drawn into the sex industry while being very young or have experienced sexually exploitative relationships by a member of their family or during their marriage. It is this vulnerability and lack of power which render them the targets of sexual exploitation.
The lack of social networks and shelter houses in comparison to the increasing problem of women trafficking and their sexual exploitation aggravate the problem as victims count with very few alternatives when facing dire economical situation or violence from their family members.”
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