Sex workers feel less safe, more stigmatised and in greater fear of gardai since a law criminalising the purchase of sex was enacted, a report from Maynooth university warns.
Commissioned by HIV Ireland, the study looks at how the Part 4 of the Sexual
Offences Act (2017) has impacted sex workers.
The report, which HIV Ireland is submitting to a government review of the legislation, says:
The findings ... point to the negative impact of current laws on the abilities
of sex workers to keep safe and reduce harms to their health and well-being, in line with mounting evidence from other jurisdictions where sex buyer laws are in place.
While some international women's groups and radical feminists
support the utility of such sex purchase laws to send a symbolic message on sexual behaviour there is little consideration of the impact on sex workers' safety.
The report, by Dr Paul Ryan and Dr Kathryn McGarry, of the Department of
Sociology at Maynooth University, calls for the law to be repealed, to recognise the reality of sex work and keep those involved in it safe.
Gardai have only initiated 2 prosecutions under a law passed last year to criminalise the purchase of sex. The 2017 Sexual Offences Act -- which introduced the so-called Nordic model criminalises the customers of sex workers.
Under the law, women must
be willing to participate in court proceedings against their clients. This contrasts with Scandinavia where the law lets police officers testify about the paid for sex.
The Times say Garda sources claim some women are often frightened to face a
punter in court, as they may be linked to organised crime gangs who can threaten the women's family and friends. But in reality the women aren't going to do very well in business if they don't look after their customers.
Gardai sources also claim
the force is missing out on valuable tip-offs from punters about trafficked women, because men are unsurprisingly unwilling to get involved when they themselves would be prosecuted.
The purchasing of sex will be outlawed under new criminal offences. Miserable ministers signed have agreed to a bill that will see those buying sex face fines of €500 or up to €5,000 if the person is trafficked.
'Justice' Minister Frances Fitzgerald
is expected to publish the final legislation next week and make an announcement on when the new criminal offence will be enacted. It is unclear if it will or will not decriminalise sex workers in brothels or on the streets.
A group which calls
itself the sex workers alliance of Ireland said it was a sad day for sex workers and that there are efforts in Sweden to decriminalise sex workers or soliciting by prostitutes.
New legislation on sexual offences criminalises paying for sex with prostitutes, but ensures the person offering sexual services is not guilty of a crime. Presumably Ireland does not have laws against inciting people (their customers) to commit a crime.
Minister for Injustice Frances Fitzgerald published the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 on Wednesday, claiming she was committed to addressing the very real and tragic crimes of trafficking and exploitation associated with
prostitution. She said:
I am convinced that targeting the demand for such services is the way forward.
Ms Fitzgerald said her proposals mirrored the approach adopted in Northern Ireland and other
jurisdictions which she said had seen a reduction in demand for the services provided by prostitutes.
Irish anti-prostitution campaigners have noted 26 extra profiles listed on escort agency websites in Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan, Leitrim and Louth.
The campaign group, Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI, not a state body), has noted an increase in online
escort profiles from 51 to 77.
The group is claiming this to be an in increase of prostitution activity in southern border counties of 51%.
Inevitably now that men will be persecuted for buying sex in the north, there will be a proportion
of the sex trade that moves to more tolerant jurisdictions, but counting online profiles is no more than a stab in the dark about quantifying resultant cross border trade.
Brian Killoran of the ICI claimed:
initial indications are that those who run prostitution have been feeling the heat of Northern Ireland's new laws even before they came into force and have been switching their operations to the South.
It is important that Gardai
monitor the increase in online activity and use our existing laws to ensure that pimps and traffickers are not viewing our border counties and major cities as safe havens after their business model has been wrecked in the North.
It is also essential that the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald TD, honour her commitment to publish sex buyer laws here and that we join Northern Ireland, the US, Canada and Sweden in shutting down the organised crime behind prostitution.
The Republic of Ireland's government has introduced a bill that will make it a criminal offence to pay for sex.
The bill comes a year after the Oireachtas 'Justice' Committee's Report on the Review of the Legislation on Prostitution in Ireland
made the recommendation that the purchase of sexual services should be made illegal.
'Justice' Minister Frances Fitzgerald introduced the new legislation on November 27th , claiming that her proposed bill reflects an all-island consensus to
targeting the predominantly exploitative nature of prostitution. The draft legislation makes purchasing sexual services a general offence, and the purchasing of sexual services from trafficked persons a more serious offence. The Irish
Department of 'Justice' said:
In both cases, the persons selling the sexual service will not be subject to an offence Unlike the existing offences relating to prostitution such as soliciting, loitering or brothel
keeping, this offence will specifically target the demand for prostitution.
However, as Ireland-based activist and writer Wendy Lyon pointed out on Twitter, the offence of paying for sexual services will be inserted into the
Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 as Section 5A and there is no repeal of any of the parts of the 1993 Act that currently criminalises sex workers. This bill will NOT decriminalise sex workers she wrote.
An Irish sex worker,
I think [the Swedish Model] is a very very scary model and that people don't truly understand how far-reaching it can be.
You're basically playing cat and mouse against the police
all the time if you introduce the Swedish model and you're just trying to work against the police and you're not getting any help. It's bad enough as it is already. It's going to be worse if they introduce the Swedish Model.
UglyMugs.ie invited Irish indoor sex workers to take part in the research, which aimed to learn more about escorts in Ireland and particularly about their experiences of crime and abuse. This is the first ever survey of indoor sex workers in Ireland
and 195 female, male and trans* escorts took part. Although the survey cannot be considered representative of all persons selling sex in Ireland, 195 participants is a very significant proportion of the Irish sex worker population.
The escorts who took part in the survey were from 29 different countries. Most were aged in their 20s or 30s and highly educated. Just over half had worked in sex work in another country prior to becoming an escort in Ireland. 97.3%
were self-employed independent escorts, though 33.3% had experience of working for a third party, e.g. an escort agency, in Ireland or elsewhere in the past.
Despite it being popularly reported in the media that children are
involved in prostitution, there was no evidence of the involvement of any under 16s and only one participant was aged under 18.
Participants reported low alcohol and drug use, high condom use, and taking a number of security
measures whilst working as an escort, the top ones being not getting in cars with clients (65.3%), taking more precautions when it is a new client (58.1%) and not working alone (41.1%) despite the laws in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
that force escorts to work alone if they want to work legally.
Ireland's sex worker population overwhelmingly works indoors with access to phones and the Internet, which is safe conditions, in comparison to outdoor sex working.
However, many of the participants reported experiences of a wide range of crime and abuses. It is also clear that a wide range of persons commit crime against sex workers in Ireland, not only clients.
66.7% of participants who had
been a victim of crime whilst working as an escort in Ireland did not report to the police. The high level of stigma associated with being an escort being the primary barrier to engaging with police.
Participants said that other
escorts were the biggest source of help to them after experiencing crime. The research confirmed that currently there are no useful support services for escorts in Ireland, but escorts would welcome the establishment of a variety of sex worker support
Fear of media exposure amongst escorts in Ireland is very high, even higher than fear of crime, with 74.6% of participants worried or very worried about being exposed as an escort in the newspapers or other media.
Recommendations include further research, a review of laws and policies that put sex workers at risk, tackling media abuse of sex workers and the provision of police sex worker liaison services and general advice, legal advice, health
services and exiting services for sex workers.
The full report outlines that a number of factors put escort at risk of violence and abuse. The lack of support services and good relations with police, mean offenders specifically
target escorts, in the belief that they are people in society without any help, who offenders can abuse with a very low risk of facing any consequences as a result. The media portrayal of escorts as people with no rights, no choices, helpless victims who
can't say no to anything or anybody, is also sending a very dangerous message to offenders.
UglyMugs.ie is a scheme that aims to improve the safety of sex workers in Ireland and reduce crimes committed against them, by bringing
sex workers together to share information about potential dangers.
Commenting on the research, UglyMugs.ie said:
There has never been any independent research into indoor sex work in Ireland.
Instead of asking sex workers about their lives, we ask anti-prostitution campaigners. As our initial research here has shown, the Irish public are being grossly misled. Proper independent research must now be carried out now to establish the reality of
indoor sex work in Ireland, so sensible legislation can be put in place.
Legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex will be introduced to the Dail tomorrow. The Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill, to be introduced by Independent TD Thomas Pringle, sets out to impose harsh criminal sanctions on those who pay for sex.
Persecution of men via the so called Swedish model is being advocated in Ireland by the Turn off the Red Light Campaign. The campaign, is endorsed by 68 organisations including various gender extremist groups eg Ruhama, the Irish Congress of Trade
Unions, the Labour Party and Barnardos.
[The Bill] will reduce the demand for sexual services, thereby reducing the incidence of prostitution in society. It will create a situation that will
remove the attractiveness of prostitution and trafficking from organised criminal elements by creating the risk for purchasers of sexual services to be prosecuted with the element of 'name and shame' acting as a deterrent.
The Bill provides for an ascending scale of penalties, from a fixed-notice fine of EUR500 for first-time offenders, to a EUR4,000 fine and/or four-week jail sentence for repeat offenders.
Ireland's Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality yesterday heard arguments for and against the criminalisation of buying sex.
It was good to hear of a little compassion from one lawmaker.
Senator Mary White said she had
compassion for those who had no access to legitimate sexual relationships . She said people had an obvious psychological and physical need for sex and she asked if the selling of sex should not be legitimised to protect the buyer and the seller.
Sexwork.ie is an escort advertising company's blog on the 2012 Irish Government consultation on prostitution.
The site is keeping track of submissions to the Irish governments consultation on changing the country's prostitution laws.
site has analysed the submission from the umbrella campaign group Turn Off the Red Light. It has also just published the consultation result from the most extremist of the Irish anti prostitution campaigners of Ruhama . Predictably it has
called for extreme punishments to all activities linked to sex work and of course the criminalisation of people who purchase sex.
Miserable Irish politicians considering banning prostitution have been urged to back off by a leading escort agency.
MPs and senators mulling over new laws to outlaw customers paying for sex have even been invited to visit the offices of Escort
Ireland. The web firm submitted a lengthy appeal to the Leinster House committee looking at law changes. Their submission states:
We believe there is nothing wrong with someone paying for sexual services and most
clients are decent people.
We don't think adults should be prosecuted for privately paying other consenting adults for sex. Escort Ireland, which by-passes a ban on advertising sex services by operating from the UK, warned against
driving the business underground. They added:
We feel the views of sex workers are the views that need to be heard more than any others.
'Justice' and Equality Committee member and Fine Gael TD
David Stanton said:
The committee should be careful about what weight it affords certain submissions like this one. There are all sorts of people involved in prostitution and they have their own agendas.
A miserable campaign to criminalise men who pay for sex has launched billboards in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Sligo and Waterford.
Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland which has helped support the campaign, said all
avenues need to be explored to raise awareness and force a law change. She said The story of Anna depicted on the billboards is in no way unique and reflects a reality which exists in every county in Ireland.
The Turn Off The Red Light
Campaign cited Department of Justice figures for 2011 which show that eight children were trafficked into Ireland for sexual exploitation, with 15 detected in 2010.
Charlton said: Public support is needed to bring about real change and we hope
the billboard and Twitter campaign will motivate people to contact their local politicians and demand that the sex trade is shut down by making it illegal to pay for sex.
Turn Off The Red Light campaigns to end prostitution in Ireland and is
backed by more than 50 organisations including trade unions, political parties and nutter groups. It wants to make Ireland's vice laws similar to Sweden where people who pay for sex are criminalised before the prostitute.