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'An historic day': It is now illegal to buy sex in Ireland

Not everyone is happy with the new legislation.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

NEW LAWS DESIGNED to protect prostitutes by criminalising the buyers of sex came into force today much to the relief of a number of organisations.

Turn Off The Red Light, an umbrella group of charities and groups against the selling of sex, described the commencement of the laws as “an historic day” which they believe will help “vulnerable women, children and men in prostitution access support”.

Spokeswoman for Turn Off The Red Light, Denise Charlton, said today is important because, for the first time, those involved in prostitution will no longer be criminalised by the law but instead protected by it.

“From today, the Irish State is finally telling those sexually exploited through prostitution: ‘You are not to blame. You are not at fault. You are the victim here and we will protect you.’ From today, the law will instead focus on the pimps and traffickers who currently profit to the tune of €250 million from the sex trade,” she added.

Sex Workers Bill Kate McGrew of the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland with supporters outside Leinster House last year opposing the laws. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

However, there are those who have been vehemently opposed to the bill. The Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland (SWAI) had said that the laws will not stop prostitution but will instead force women to operate in more clandestine way, thus increasing the likelihood of women being abused.

Concerns

According to the group, their biggest concern is the safety of sex workers, particularly the most vulnerable.

They said that laws which criminalise the purchase of sex “do not magically create options for the migrants, trans people, single parents and others who turn to sex work in order to survive”.

Spokeswoman Kate McGrew said: “The Government’s moral crusade was driven by ideology not evidence. National and international expert groups provided clear evidence that criminalisation of the purchase of sex is not only ineffective but would be harmful to the health and safety of sex workers across Ireland.

Today, our thoughts are with the most vulnerable sex workers, who will be forced to take greater and greater risks in order to keep the clients they depend upon: those who will drop their prices, those who will agree to unprotected sex, those who will agree to go to an unknown location, and avoid calling the gardaí when attacked or afraid.

“We encourage all sex workers to get in contact with SWAI to get support and information on their rights under the new law. We can be contacted by phone 085 8249305 or email info@swai.eu.”

These are views not shared by Turn Off The Red Light, a group supported by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Ruhama as well as the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

In fact, Mia de Faoite, who survived working as a prostitute, said she knows how important this law is.

“It will mean nothing unless we ensure those currently enduring sexual exploitation know they have these protections. The emphasis from today must be on working to reach them to let them know society cares about them and that they no longer need fear criminalisation,” she added.

‘This approach will not help victims of trafficking’: Groups at odds as sex bill passes final stage

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