Several MKs have announced support for a bill that would criminalize sexual relationships between teenagers aged 16-18 and significantly older adults.
The bill was submitted to the Knesset just hours after famous Israeli singer Eyal Golan was revealed as the previously anonymous celebrity accused of having had consensual sex with two girls ages 14-15.
While the timing has led to suggestions that the bill is mere populism, the MKs behind it say it will provide older teenagers with needed protection from exploitation.
Under Israel’s current laws, teenagers are able to consent to sex with a partner of any age from age 16, as long as there is no dependency between the two, such as in a teacher-student relationship.
An older partner who engages in consensual sexual relations with a teen aged 14-16, as Golan is accused of having done, faces charges of “prohibited intercourse by consent” – a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Sexual intercourse with a child under age 14 is considered rape.
MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) argues that the current situation fails to protect teenagers ages 16 and 17 from exploitation at the hands of much older partners. A person in their late 20s or older is in a position of authority in relation to a 16-17 year old even if there is no formal dependent relationship between them, she says.
The new bill would criminalize sexual relations between teens ages 16-17 and adults 10 or more years older. “In a perfect world, legislation like this would not be necessary,” she said. “But unfortunately, the number of cases in which people of status take advantage of their influence obligates the legislature to intervene, to redefine proper behavioral norms.”
MK Lavie submitted the new law, which has received support from MKs Meirav Michaeli (Labor), Michal Rosin (Meretz), Motti Yogev (Jewish Home), Miri Regev (Likud), Elazar Stern (Hatnua), and others.
The new bill follows the passage of a law that raised the legal marriage age from 17 to 18. The change to the marriage law is expected to affect primarily the Arab-Israeli and hareidi-religious communities, where marriages between older teens are more common.
Some opponents of the change to the marriage law accused the government of hypocrisy over its focus on marriage, while failing to address the effect on teens of sexual relationships without marriage - an issue which the current bill now seeks to tackle.