Prostitution is legal in Ireland

Human trafficking - photo credit (Flickr)
Human trafficking - photo credit (Flickr)

Prostitution in Ireland is not illegal. Buying sex or selling sexual services is legal, because the Irish law “protects these transactions as agreements between consenting adults”.

Turn Off The Red Light (TORL) is a campaign set up in Ireland by an alliance of Irish non-governmental organisations. Their aim is to criminalise the purchase of sex, end prostitution and sex trafficking.

Amsterdam, Red Light District - Photo Credit (Flickr)
Amsterdam, Red Light District – Photo Credit (Flickr)

There are some activities that are connected to prostitution that are outlawed in Ireland, such as kerb crawling, brothel keeping, or soliciting in public places. However, these acts are merely public order offences, which means the punishment is to pay a fine.

In 2008, buying sex from a person who had been trafficked became illegal in accordance with the Human Trafficking Act 2008. But this act does not provide for strict liability, which means the person who paid for the sexual activity can defend themselves by simply saying they didn’t know that the person who they were purchasing sex from had been trafficked.

Trafficking - Photo credit (Flickr)
Trafficking – Photo credit (Flickr)

On the TORL website, they have a section of testimonies, where women tell their experiences of working in the Irish sex trade. These stories made me sick, upset and angry. How do people live their lives like this?

“In the first agency… you were available 24/7 to clients. The men were told they could do anything and if you refused they complained and you were fined €400”.

“There was no choice about which men you saw and some men wanted sex without condoms. If you refused to have anal sex you had to pay a penalty or the ‘security’ men would beat you up.”

“I feel like nothing. I feel dirty. I feel confused and upset all the time. I want to get out of this work. I want a normal life. I am tired of all the lies…I have lived inside this world, this universe and the normal world outside is lost to me. I feel I have no future”.

How can Ireland allow this behaviour to be legal? How can anyone think this is an acceptable way to live?

Casual Prostitution - photo credit (Flickr)
Casual Prostitution – photo credit (Flickr)

The Irish Examiner published an article, “The harsh realities of being raped for a living”, about a former Dublin prostitute who had been in the sex industry since the age of 15. What made me sick about this article was that she told every man who purchased her for sex her age, because it aroused them more, which made the experience shorter. She also said that one of the girls she worked with was only 13, and there were a mass amount of men wanting to purchase sex from her because she was so young.

Although it is illegal in Ireland to have sex with someone younger than 17, the courts have ruled that mistaking a minor about their age may be used as a defence. What protection do any young girls who are forced into this industry have?

Prostitution agency - Photo credit (Flickr)
Prostitution agency – Photo credit (Flickr)

Prostitution is very harmful for women: They must provide sex multiple times a day to numerous different men. This makes them very vulnerable to sexual transmitted infections, and leads to severe physical and emotional harm. The women involved in the sex industry are also open to being violently attacked.

Many people believe that prostitution is a woman’s own choice, and that it is a harmless act and those involved should have the freedom to prostitute. But many woman and children are forced to work in the sex industry to earn money. Over 80% of women trafficked are the victims of sexual exploitation.

Human trafficking - photo credit (Flickr)
Human trafficking – photo credit (Flickr)

On 27 November, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald published the General Scheme of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2014, which outlines two new offences of purchasing sexual services. It also supports the human rights for those who are being  trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

In the March 2014 Council of Europe Report, “Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe”, it is suggested that member states should consider, “criminalising the purchase of sexual services, based on the Swedish model, as the most effective tool for preventing and combating trafficking in human beings”. The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality has recommended criminalising the purchase of sexual services in Ireland.

For the safety of women, and for the righteousness of Ireland, lets hope that these new laws are granted sooner rather than later.

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