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Confirmed: It's going to be illegal to purchase the services of a sex worker

The age of consent is also to remain at 17.

A sex worker at a brothel in Hamburg, Germany.
A sex worker at a brothel in Hamburg, Germany.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE GOVERNMENT HAS confirmed that it is to make it a criminal offence to pay for sex.

The move follows a recommendation from the Oireachtas Justice Committee that the purchase of sexual service should be outlawed.

Justice Minster Frances Fitzgerald will make the formal announcement of the plan on Thursday when she will provide details of the forthcoming legislation.

It’s also been confirmed that there are no plans to change the age of consent from its current age of 17.

The criminalisation of the purchase of sex was recently introduced in Northern Ireland and has also been enacted in parts of the United States and in Canada. It’s been given the moniker of the ‘Swedish model’ because of its roots in the Nordic countries.

Last year in their ‘Report on the Review of the Legislation on Prostitution in Ireland’, the Oireachtas Justice Committee made several recommendations including that the purchase of sexual services should be made illegal.

Other recommendations they made included increased penalties for sex traffickers and punishments for visiting websites that advertise prostitution.

There has been debate about the merits of the new laws with some arguing that it forces the sex industry further underground and makes it more dangerous for sex workers.

To coincide with the introduction of Northern Ireland’s criminalisation, research by Queens University found that almost two-thirds of sex workers believe it would make them less safe and 85% said it would not reduce sex trafficking.

But today’s announcement of upcoming laws in the Republic has been welcomed by the Immigrant Council of Ireland who are part of the Turn Off The Red Light campaign which aims to criminalise the purchase of sexual services.

“We look forward to examining the details when the announcement is made on Thursday,” said CEO Denise Charlton. “It is our hope that the Minister will be taking the first step in a concerted effort to wreck the business model which has allowed pimps and traffickers to threaten and abuse women and girls in this country.”

Read: Lawmakers told that prostitution is sexual violence and that domestic violence is a crime >

Read: Over 300 women affected by trafficking and prostitution needed help last year >

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Rónán Duffy

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