Judge Itai Hermelin of the Tel Aviv court for local affairs issued an order on Monday temporarily closing a house of prostitution that has been engaged in a legal battle for over a year – but in the same order, he outlined conditions for legal prostitution in a shocking precedent.
Hermelin ordered to close the brothel at Yitzhak Sde Street in Tel Aviv for 90 days, but at the same time ruled that the business of ill repute would not be permanently shuttered.
The judge also set conditions legally allowing women to manage a place of prostitution, an act which has been illegal up until today, reports Walla.
Prostitution is not of itself considered illegal according to Israeli law, although pimping and running a place of prostitution is a crime. One of the women involved in the Tel Aviv brothel is currently on trial for those infractions.
From the start of the trial Hermelin broke from legal precedent and rejected the request of the police to issue a temporary order of closure on the brothel, and instead ruled that it should be left open during the legal proceedings. He justified his questionable ruling by saying the closure was liable to worsen the conditions of the prostitutes and force them to live on the street.
Explaining the 90-day closure, he wrote in his decision: “I was convinced that there is a reasonable basis for concerns that if the use of the site referenced in the request is not limited, crimes of pimping, acts of prostitution, maintaining a site for prostitution and renting a site for prostitution will continue to be committed there.”
Defining legal prostitution
In a troubling precedent, the judge outlined conditions in which running a place of prostitution would be legal according to his interpretation.
Hermelin cited a clause dealing with maintaining a site of prostitution which specifies that the law will not be enforced in the case of a woman who acts as a prostitute from her own apartment, or if the prostitution is at a site rented for the purpose by several women who are engaging in the “business” there in a joint manner.
He listed a third situation in which prostitution is legal according to his reading of the law, namely a case of prostitution in a site rented by a woman for her “work” as a prostitute in which she invites other prostitutes to share the site with her.
In other words, Hermelin defined the legal conditions for running a brothel for the first time.
“What this means is that the women whose occupation is in prostitution, who opposed limiting the use of the site that the request was submitted against, will not need to move their occupation to the street as they feared,” wrote the judge.
“In this way anticipated harm to their human dignity is prevented if their concerns of being forced to deal in prostitution in the street had been realized, and the harm to their freedom of employment is reduced and becomes proportional,” he said, apparently defining prostitution in a brothel as being within the realm of “human dignity” and “freedom of employment.”
“In addition, removing the pimping in its legal understanding from the picture contributes to the autonomy of every woman in her choice of employment and conditions of employment, and at the least reduces her monetary exploitation.”
The prostitutes from the Tel Aviv brothel appeared in the year-long trial one after the other, arguing to prevent the closure of their place of ignoble employment, and they were backed by the judge’s statements.
For its part the state tried to show in the case that the “work” in the brothel was organized, coordinated and well arranged, in order to prove that illegal activities were taking place in the brothel.