JERUSALEM (JTA) — About 12,000 women in Israel are sex workers — nearly two-thirds mothers — according to the first national survey of prostitution in the country.
The survey, which had its findings released Friday, also found that 1,000 men are sex workers in Israel.
Some 62 percent of the women are mothers and 52 percent were born in countries from the former Soviet Union, according to the survey, which took place in recent weeks and was conducted for the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services. Another 11 percent are minors; 20 percent of the women have an academic degree.
Forty percent of the women had been working as prostitutes for between five and 15 years, and 12 percent had been working for more than 16 years.
Prostitution is illegal in Israel.
“The data is very difficult, and we cannot remain indifferent to such a phenomenon,” Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz told Haaretz.
According to the survey, whose findings were reported in the Israeli media, two-thirds of the women begin working as prostitutes due to financial desperation and another 7 percent became prostitutes because of drug addiction.
The women report an average of 5.5 customers each day, or about 660 a year. Annual payments to prostitutes in Israel totaled about $308.2 million in 2014, according to the report.
Forty-three percent of prostitutes’ activities take place in “discrete apartments” with regular customers or their referrals, with 6 percent working on the street. Another 18 percent comes from escort services, 18 percent from strip clubs and related institutions, and 16 percent from massage parlors.