A Knesset bill that aims to make paying for sex services a criminal offense has been met with an act of maverick dissent. A 56-year-old resident of Ashdod turned himself in to the police to protest the measure, which he described as “totalitarian,” the Russian-language website IzRus reported.
Roman Kudelis, an engineer from the former Soviet Union, showed up at a local police station last Thursday with a change of underwear and a toothbrush and demanded to be arrested. He explained to the surprised police officers that as he was a regular client of prostitutes, he should be arrested in accordance with the terms of the new bill.
The legislation, which was proposed by MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women, and Zahava Gal-On, Meretz Party chairwoman, has passed a preliminary reading at the Knesset plenum. It is to be submitted to a parliamentary committee for further review and has a complex legal path ahead before it could become law, police told Kudelis in explanation of why he cannot be arrested yet.
Under the bill, repeat offenders could face up to six months in prison. The legislation, based on Swedish and French models, has been widely acclaimed as an important step in the battle against sex trafficking and prostitution in Israel. However, according to Kudelis’s interpretation, it is in contravention of basic democratic freedoms.
“I’ve lived long enough in the USSR, a totalitarian country where people were deprived of basic rights and freedoms, deprived of choice on what to eat and say,” Kudelis said. “I did not come to the decision to change my life and emigrate to have it all repeated here. I visit prostitutes twice a year; my wife is aware of it and respects my choice.”
“We are all prostitutes,” trumpeted Kudelis, echoing postmodern thinkers for whom prostitution is an apt metaphor for human relations under capitalism. “We are selling our time and bodies to our employers in exchange for money.”
According to the JTA, more than 15,000 individuals are estimated to be working in the prostitution industry in Israel, including 5,000 minors.