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United Nations Slams Israel Over Child Prostitution Epidemic

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Israel has no clear strategy for addressing child prostitution within its borders, according to a UN report, which says that sex offenders there are not sufficiently prosecuted and punished.

In the wake of the scathing report from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, a source told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that despite growing awareness of the problem, helping juvenile prostitutes "still falls between the governmental cracks."

Of all the police investigations opened into sex crimes against minors last year, about 45% have been closed, the paper reported.

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In its most recent report, the UN committee said Israel has failed to implement a recommendation made in the previous report: establishing a state agency dedicated to children's rights.

The report also said the number of investigations into people suspected of sex crimes against minors is low to start with, and only a small percentage of those cases actually go to trial.

Moreover, even when convictions are obtained in child prostitution or pornography cases, the sentences don't always match the severity of the crimes, the report said. It recommended instituting stiffer sentences for obtaining sexual services from a minor, Haaretz reported.

According to latest data compiled by the Knesset's research center, of the 2,349 cases opened into sex crimes against minors in 2014, only 11% have yet produced a verdict. Almost 45% of these cases were closed – 30% because the criminal was unknown and 13% due to lack of public interest.

Yifat Shasha-Biton, chair of the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child, echoed the UN report's complaint about lenient sentencing.

"A sentence of up to three years for obtaining sex services from a minor is ridiculous," she said.

A representative of the Social Affairs Ministry confirmed the UN report's criticism of Israel's lack of a system for coordinating among different government agencies involved in this issue.

He said his ministry "works to rehabilitate minors employed in prostitution, but doesn't coordinate with the Education Ministry on preventing [minors] from sliding into prostitution or on locating minors employed in prostitution."

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