About three thousand women, mainly from the former Soviet Union, are sold each year into a brisk Israeli sex industry that takes in about a billion dollars annually, a parliamentary report said on Sunday, slamming Israel's justice system for being lax on punishments.

The women, seeking to escape poverty at home, are usually smuggled in by traffickers who promise them legitimate jobs. Once in Israel, they are sold for between $3 000 and $6 000 each (about R27 500 and R55 000). They receive between $25-$30 per customer, of which the pimp takes between 80 and 90 percent, the preliminary report said.

The women work about 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week and service an average of 10 to 15 clients daily, it added. Often, the women live in dismal conditions and sometimes they are physically abused or live in fear of their pimps, the report said.

Israeli courts generally reach a plea bargain with the pimps and sentence them to either a few months of community service or up to an average of two years in prison, punishments which the committee said are too weak to serve as deterrents.

It suggested that these crimes should have minimum prison sentences to deter the sex traders, who sexually exploit the women and often jail, blackmail and enslave them.

In July 2001, a US State Department report placed Israel in the third section of its "black list" on countries whose laws don't meet US criteria for dealing with this crime and threatened economic sanctions.

Israel has reformed the law somewhat since then, but the committee said it is not enough to confront the problem effectively.

In addition to changes in the law, the committee suggested an authority be formed to fight the "war against trafficking in people".

Source: http://www.iol.co.za/news/world/us-c...-trade-1.98811