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Saturday 3 June 2023 Dublin: 11°C
# remembering the dead
Masked sex workers to hold candlelit vigil outside Leinster House
They will remember the deaths of seven women in Ireland who were sex workers.

SEX WORKERS WEARING masks will hold a candlelit vigil outside Leinster House this evening, in an effort to draw attention to the number of sex workers who have died in past years.

The vigil will take place from 6pm – 7pm, while in Belfast, a vigil will be held at 5pm outside the City Hall. The events are being held to mark International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers.

Irish legislation

The event is also an opportunity for Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) to call on the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, once more not to introduce laws criminalising the purchase of sex.

SWAI believes this will “lead to an increase in stigma and put sex workers at more risk of violence and abuse”.

SWAI believes only a human rights approach based on harm reduction and decriminalisation will protect sex workers and give them access to their rights.

The alliance has met with Minister Fitzgerald and is hoping to meet with other members of the Dáil in early 2015.

Remembering those who lost their lives

A spokesperson for SWAI told that the international event was started in 2003 to draw attention to sex workers who have been killed during their work.

“We will have masks available for sex workers because we know that sex workers in particular are worried about their identity because it is a highly stigmatised job,” she said.

She said that seven sex workers have died in recent years in Ireland.  One of the women, said SWAI, died as she worked alone due to Ireland’s brothel laws. This is something the group want to bring to the Minister for Justice’s attention.

Fears for safety

The SWAI is concerned about Ireland adopting the ‘Swedish model’ of criminalising the purchase of sex, saying that they worry sex workers will feel more vulnerable to violence.

The spokesperson said they are particularly worried that the Swedish model laws could see street workers at risk of being forced into not wearing condoms during their work.

“If we look at a country like ours, with the recession and cuts to welfare, people still need to be making money and people will be putting themselves more at risk.”

The spokesperson said the SWAI “don’t feel there is a willingness to listen to sex workers” in Ireland, highlight how during Justice Committee hearings they put pressure on the committee to meet sex workers.

Former sex workers spoke to the committee days after sex workers expressed their concerns about the fact that now sex workers or former sex workers had spoken to the committee.

The criminal law in the area of prostitution is being reviewed because of the changed nature of the sector in Ireland.

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

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