Thursday, December 12, 2013
Justice department's review of prostitution laws and concerns over women being trafficked boost campaign for criminalisation
theguardian.com, Wednesday 11 December 2013 19.00 GMT
MDG : Prostitution : teenage prostitute waits for customers in the red light area . The law on prostitution in Ireland has just been reviewed by the Department for Justice, which recommended criminalising the purchase of sex. Ireland appears to be moving inexorably towards the "Nordic model" on prostitution, with cross-party support for moves to target punters by criminalising paying for sex.
Recent research suggests that on any given day there are about 800 sex workers online in Ireland. But the industry has changed hugely in recent years: about 90% of women working in indoor prostitution in Ireland are migrants, raising concerns about the crossover between prostitution and trafficking.
Sarah Benson, chief executive officer of Ruhama, a group that represents migrants working in the sex trade in Ireland, said: "Sex trafficking and prostitution are inextricably linked, it's an incredibly harmful environment for anyone to be in."
Her views represent those of a powerful coalition of non-governmental organisations called Turn off the Red Light, which has been leading a campaign to criminalise paying for sex in Ireland.
There is now cross-parliamentary support for this approach after a review of prostitution laws by the Department of Justice. In his report, the chair of parliament's justice committee, David Stanton, referred to evidence on the reduction of demand for prostitution in Sweden since buying sex was banned in 1999. He said: "Such a reduction in demand will lessen the incidence of harms associated with prostitution and – particularly in view of the predominance of migrant women in prostitution in Ireland – the economic basis for human trafficking into this state."
Benson agrees this indicates higher levels of abuse. "Very few of the migrant women come here by themselves, they arrive here with debt, [and] they are immediately exploited," she said.
Some sex workers worry that the move to criminalise demand will ignore the women who choose to sell sex. "This movement is sweeping from the US across Europe, it's become a modern crusade," said Teresa Whitaker, of the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland.
"Those women who do get coerced or tricked need proper services and compassion, but the women choosing this work need human rights. The dangers are that this gets driven underground."
However, former prostitutes are among those leading the call for reform. Rachel Moran worked as a prostitute for seven years and is a fierce opponent of any kind of liberalisation. "The act of being bought and sold is hugely damaging in itself, even if a woman rarely or never experiences violence-because prostitution itself is violent. She said men who use prostitutes needed to take responsibility for their role in exploiting those women who are being forced to sell sex."
"I met a young woman, she was kidnapped in the streets of London at 18 and spent five years in Irish brothels, used by too many men to count; men who were quite content to look the other way and pretend not to see her obvious misery."
Whitaker acknowledges that she is on the losing side of the argument, a fact she attributes partly to the religious feeling that underpins Irish society. "If you had a referendum and asked 'Should Ireland criminalise clients of prostitutes?', there would be a yes vote. It's a Catholic country, and the constitution is based on family and marriage."
But for Moran, a moral judgment on prostitution is exactly what she wants to see. "I think that the reason people want prostitution stripped of morality is because if we viewed it through a moral prism it would collapse, and they know it," she said
(Source - http://www.theguardian.com)