Sunday, 21 December 2014

War is over (Merry Christmas)


In the "debate" on sex work in Ireland, it's time for a ceasefire over Christmas. I need to tell you, Irish abolitionists fight dirty, dirtier than I've ever experienced before. Given their background in the Magdalene Laundries, I guess that shouldn't surprise me, but there is no low to which they won't stoop. When they weren't (allegedly) reporting me to the taxman for a full investigation they were putting my details up on Dublin Backpage, posing as clients to fill my diary with false appointments and that's before we talk about hauling me through the mud at Stormont and telling blatant lies to the media about me and my colleagues. Ho hum.

I'm not saying I didn't respond with ferocity, I did. That's because they made a common mistake and mistook a pleasant manner for weakness. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I go into every single debate I do to win. Whether that's an hour long event at a university or an eighteen month campaign in Northern Ireland, I don't do giving up. So if it means a trip to the Supreme Court, or the European Court of Human Rights, so be it.

About the only thing I can't blame abolitionists for this year is smashing up my leg in Belfast, although if I didn't know better, I'd swear they crept in to my room in the dead of night and added a generous coating of vegetable oil to the base of my shower. I hate to be the one to burst their bubble, but I'm back on my feet and still smiling. See to me, Christmas is lovely when you receive gifts and all, I mean who doesn't need lavender soap on a rope ? But more important than that, it's time to take stock and appreciate the real gifts you have. In my case that's a number of people around me who can best be summed up with the phrase - "I've got your back, sweetie."

If I need to rage that's okay, if I need to let off steam that's fine too. If I need to cry my lamps out, there is always a man sized tissue with extra soothing balm ready. There are people I can call and request sanctuary, a DVD and a curry at anywhere else than your hotel room can be medicine indeed. I also have some friends with the most amazing sense of humour, who send me emails which have me braying like a donkey. Most unladylike but therapeutic in the extreme. One such friend has written a letter to Santa, which I've decided to share with you, he's based in Ireland and disabled, so no prizes for guessing the forthcoming tone. It just remains for me to wish you all, a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones. Not you, abolitionists, I hope your turkey is trafficked and contaminated and necessitates a 48 hour stay in your government funded bathroom suite.

LL xx

P.S : If you're stuck for a last minute gift, check out this worthy site. To help those in need, it's far better than soap on a rope.



Dear Santa,

I'm probably wasting my time writing to you, but let me remind you of some of the requests that you didn't deliver last year.

-New Bentley
-Super Model Wife/Girlfriend
-Body Transplant
-Villa in the Bahamas
-Yacht in Monaco.

This year I have only one simple request, I want a visit to Belfast. As you know I'm a vulnerable simpleton cripple and it's my duty to be targeted. There is a dangerous one who goes by the name Laura Lee and she specialises in targeting the likes of me and she visits Belfast. She has what she calls toys, I wouldn't like to tell you what she does with them it would probably kill an old man like you if I told you. Be careful Santa, she is well connected, friends in high places, her BEST Friends are the DUP you know those Lovely Upright Law Abiding God Fearing Political Citizens that look out for everyone, especially women.

Those lovely nuns at Ruhama, they are the ones who told me that she is dangerous, in fact they say she is pure evil. She writes blogs about how she loves to target the likes of me, she bragged on Twatter recently how she had her wicked way with another vulnerable fella in Inverness then she stole all his belongings and ran over his cat. After she had her wicked way with another she made soup and sandwiches for him but the nuns tell me that if you sample her culinary skills that's probably the end of you. They say it's worse than having to eat Kangroo Balls on I'm a Muppet in the Jungle. The poor sod is probably cat and hamster food by now you can't get any more evil than that Santa.

She also makes television about targeting the likes of us vulnerable ones, I've been asked recently by a television station to star in her new show "I'm a cripple get me out of here". In fact the nuns are trying to capture her and put her in a safe house but between you and me I think there's a better chance of them finding a bisexual leprechaun with hen's teeth. They have told me it's just as well that I'm a vulnerable simpleton cripple, that way I don't understand just what she's up to when I'm targeted. She has told me that I'm lovely and then she said the other day that I'm a good one but Santa you know that's just not true. Apparently that's part of her plan to trap me. I think that's the drugs. Those nuns say she only does all this because she and all her mates are junkies.

She told me the first time that we met that just because I'm a vulnerable simpleton cripple, doesn't get me off my duties as a man, and she wouldn't let me leave until I did. She seem to love it and wriggled around smiling and moaning, but I know that's just the badness trying to escape her.

If you ignore this request like last year's, I will have to arrange to borrow a decommissioned surface to air missile and then you will be the one, Mr Clause who will be targeted when you fly over my house on Christmas Eve.

Yours,

Frustrated of Fermanagh

Monday, 15 December 2014

Women's Aid NI - The Truth


The following is a guest post from an anonymous author, given the sensitive nature of the information, you'll see why.

Women's Aid across the island of Ireland have made no bones about their support for the criminalisation of clients. In the Republic, they're vocal participants in the Turn off the Red Light campaign. In the North they lobbied the Stormont Assembly and as we're a bit short of nuns, have become the most powerful NGO to speak out on he subject. For years we all knew Women's Aid were the experts on domestic abuse and violence, but now it seems, they're experts at everything. So much so, that they were invited onto the committee that oversaw the research into prostitution in Northern Ireland commissioned by the Department of Justice.


For half a year, I would presume under the watchful eye of that committee, academics at Queen's University drew up their plans and then carried out their research - which included a number of interviews with sex workers in the country. Then, just before the paper was published, Women's Aid withdrew from the committee claiming that the research was..

"deeply flawed and lacks a basic understanding of the links between prostitution, human trafficking, and the spectrum of sexual exploitation that is taking place in Northern Ireland."

Their action was a gift to the DUP. Their MLA and peer Lord Morrow was the sponsor of the bill - our very own William Wilberforce. In the final remarks before voting clause 15 through last week, they echoed Women's Aid's views on the research - dismissing it out of hand.

Why? Well, the people who were interviewed didn't want clause 15. And that didn't suit the DUP and Sinn Fein's political agenda to be seen to work together.

Simples.

I thought Women's Aid had washed their hands of involvement after their hissy fit over the research but then I learned that they couldn't quite afford to let the issue go.

Last week I heard that the same organisation that dismissed the views of sex workers completely now feels it's a suitable body to offer an exiting service to sex workers.

I'm sorry?

You wouldn't listen to what we had to say in our interviews in the research and now you expect us to come to you if we want to move on?

How can I explain this, Women's Aid, in a way you'll understand.

I know.

Fuck off.

SWAI Media Notice - International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers


Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) Media Notice

Event: Sex Workers and supporters hold candlelit vigil outside Leinster House & City Hall.

When: Wednesday 17th December, 6PM – 7PM
Where: Leinster House, Kildare St, Dublin 2

When : Wednesday 17th December, 5pm - 6pm
Where: City Hall, Belfast city centre.

Sex Workers and supporters will hold a candlelit vigil outside Leinster House in Dublin and City Hall in Belfast to mark International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers.

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) are calling on the Minister/Stormont not to continue pushing laws criminalising the purchase of sex as it believes it 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.

Contact:
Dublin - Catriona O’Brien, SWAI Member: 0857679470
Belfast - Laura Lee, SWAI Member: 0044 7926 309446

Notes to the Editor -
Visuals include masks to protect identity and red umbrellas
Sex workers will be available for interview

More Information
Sex Workers Alliance Ireland
http://www.sexworkersallianceireland.org/
International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
http://www.december17.org/

Friday, 12 December 2014

Mid Life Mission


See, here's the thing.

The male mid life crisis is pretty well mapped out. For the men folk, it tends to be motorbikes and escorts, I know that because it's my job. Hit 50, and suddenly a switch goes off in their brain and well, they go quite mad. These are the guys who want to roll about in custard, be *almost* seen in a local woodland, try nudism, threesomes, anal love beads, the list is never ending. Hey, I'm not complaining, it pays my mortgage.

As a woman though, I wonder what lies in store for me. I've witnessed some friends go through some pretty dramatic changes, from running away with the local petrol pump attendant to last minute babies (those two may or may not be related.) I thought about a tattoo, it's not really my thing but I like the idea of a very small blue butterfly on my hip. The butterfly (as we all know) symbolises change and is also the symbol of a sex worker - she has many visitors who softly light but never stay. Perfect ! Except the thoughts of some guy strapping me down to a workbench and sticking needles in my love handles ? No, just no. Well, maybe the first part. (I'll come back to that.)

From there I toyed with the idea of a piercing, you know, *there*. I'm told it's relatively painless as a procedure and can bring any amount of pleasure as and when required. Hurrah ! Just what a cougar cub needs, right ? Well, not really. One of the benefits of being in the sex industry as long as I have is I have some pretty amazing lady friends with whom I can discuss anything. ANYTHING. Imagine my disappointment then, when I was reliably informed that if you have a ring with a little stud fitted at the end, it does indeed have the desired effect but with very little input from the owner. So, not so handy for parent/teacher nights or indeed the cereal aisle at Asda then.

Getting more than a little dispirited, I ploughed on in my quest. Did you know there are sites on the internet where consenting adults can hook up for sexual liaisons ? Absolutely fucking disgusting. Now a member of three such sites, I'm feeling the strain of heavy protest. After all, it's only so I can infiltrate the infrastructure and bring them down with my feminist sisters. The first I happened upon is aimed at the more kinky of subscribers and as (contrary to my professional life) I enjoy relinquishing control from time to time, it didn't take me long to find Glasgow's answer to Mr. Grey. My interest in this exchange is purely as a budding psychologist, I'm studying the exchange in power. As you know, I hate bad data and dodgy statistics, so I think about an eighteen month study should do it, to give me time to plot my results and run my tests.

In conclusion then, if this is what men call a crisis, I'd hate to see what they deem a bad experience. I'm having a ball, just not at the end of a piercing.

LL xx

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

December 17th - International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers


Statement from SWAI -

December 17th marks the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Sex workers are a marginalised and highly stigmatised group. They are often the target of violence by police and members of the public because of their criminalised status. Ugly Mugs statistics show us that sex workers in Ireland only report 3% of crimes perpetrated against them. This statistic clearly illustrates the lack of trust workers have in An Garda Síochána and the Justice system to protect them. Many sex workers fear they will be criminalised themselves when attempting to report crime.

The Irish Government intends to introduce legislation criminalising the purchase of sexual services - the “Swedish Model”. The motivation behind this move is to send an empty message that buying sex is not acceptable in this country. SWAI believes this legislation will do the exact opposite and result in an increase in violence and stigma towards sex workers, and even less reporting of crimes. The intention of the Swedish Model is to abolish prostitution. As part of this model the state treats all sex workers as victims who need to be saved. It believes those resisting rescue are suffering from false consciousness.

Petite Jasmine was one such victim of violence as a result of this “Swedish Model”. Jasmine lost custody of her children because the Swedish authorities believed, as a sex worker, she was an unfit parent. Her children were placed with their father despite his history of abuse and violence towards her. The authorities told Jasmine she didn’t know what was good for her. They told her she was “romanticising” prostitution and did not understand, as a sex worker, she was self-harming. The father of her children threatened and stalked Jasmine on numerous occasions yet she was never offered any protection. Jasmine fought the system through four trials and finally started seeing her children again. In July 2013 Jasmine was brutally stabbed by the father of her children. Stigma kills.

The Swedish government thinks that increasing the stigma of sex work is a positive thing, even if it means more violence against sex workers and a reduction in the reporting of crime. At a recent meeting, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald agreed that more stigma is good, as it will prevent people from joining the industry. This view worries SWAI, that a government would rather see violence inflicted on sex workers as a preventative measure, rather than keep sex workers safe. The government needs to base its laws on creating safety for sex workers, not on a moralistic ideology, which will make sex workers more vulnerable to violence.

Since 1979 at least eight sex workers have been murdered in Ireland. Sex workers remain at risk of violence and will continue to unless the Government recognizes the need for a rights based and harm reduction approach to sex work.

We will have a Vigil at the Dáil on Wednesday December 17th at 6pm, where we will remember those sex workers who have suffered violence or been killed, often as a result of criminalisation and stigma. We ask for the members of the public and other sex workers to join us. There will be masks available for those concerned about their identity.

And from SWAI's Northern members -

We will also be demonstrating in Belfast, outside City Hall at 5pm. Again there will be masks available for those who require them and if you have any red umbrellas, please bring them. With the recent legislation passed, sex workers in Northern Ireland are effectively being pushed out on to the streets where we know it is far more dangerous, and certainly far more problematic than being able to work together in a decriminalised environment. Now more than ever we need to raise our voices and refuse to be silenced on the ongoing systematic targeting of sex workers. We deserve to work in an environment with dignity and respect taken as a given, and our safety guaranteed.

The Ipswich and Bradford murders should never have happened, we call on the PSNI to ensure our safety via the Merseyside model rather than arrest our clients. Instead, arrest our attackers and send out a clear message that we are no longer to be considered as vulnerable and alone.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Guest post by English Kate - Ruhama, how they "assist" women.


Today I want to tell you about a friend of mine. This is someone I met just over a year and a half a go. She is younger than me and a larger than life character, with a great sense of humour and you can't help but feel relaxed in her company. When we met for the first time, I instantly took a liking to her and some how knew that we would be good friends. Having said that, due to the nature of the job, we have not met in the flesh again since, but now things have changed, I do hope that will change too and we will make time to do that, as good friends are hard to come by.

My friend I shall call Sophie for the sake of this blog, has not been in the best place for the last couple of years and this is her story...

Two years ago while working as an Escort she was attacked and robbed. She was struggling mentally and emotionally with sex work as a consequence and finding it very difficult to continue working after the attack, but had no choice. She was terrified! She was so terrified, she could barely bring herself to sleep while working away from home and was having to use all the will she had to get over her fear of working.

Having heard of Ruhama and the fact that they were there to help sex workers get out of sex work, Sophie decided that she would contact them to see what they could do to help her. She needed help, as she just couldn't see a way out by herself and she dreamed that they would whisk her away from this awful situation that she had found herself in.

Sophie was nervous, too nervous to ring them on the phone and terrified about speaking to someone outside the sex industry about her job. Thankfully Ruhama have a website with a contact form on it, so she decided to fill out the form on the website stating her problems she was having and her desperate need to leave the business, as it was affecting her mentally in a bad way.

A few days later she received a reply from Ruhama, but sadly it was a generic reply with information from their website, saying that it sounds like she could do with some counselling and giving her a telephone number to ring to make an appointment. This brought her straight back to square one, with facing the dilemma of using the telephone to contact a stranger outside of the sex industry who may judge her for what she does. Sophie could not bring herself to pick up the phone, she just couldn't do it. Instead she continued to force herself to work. In the mean time she kept checking her emails to see if there was light at the end of the tunnel, to see if Ruhama had contacted her again, but they never did.

After some time and coming to terms with the fact that she wasn't going to get any help from Ruhama Sophie started job hunting. Two years passed by and not one single interview had come her way. She had registered as self-employed and was paying taxes, but being self-employed didn't seem to help with regards to getting a job, as no one was biting.

Again Sophie looked to Ruhama for help and filled out another form on the website. This time she was delighted to have got a more human response and was given the opportunity to book an appointment via email. However although she was based in the North of Ireland, she was instructed to go to Dublin in D9 for the appointment and it was in a very busy, well used building.

Ironically Sophie had to organise a tour to Dublin and work to enable her to attend the meeting, as she couldn't afford to get there otherwise. The Week before the appointment was really bad workwise and she was not making any money. She had hoped with all her heart to make some money right up to the day before the appointment so she could attend, just one client would have paid for the taxi, but no work came her way. With a heavy heart she had to cancel the appointment, as she couldn't afford the taxi fare there and back again.

Feeling despondent Sophie decided again to try and get a job herself. She re-worked her CV several times and still was not even getting an interview for a job, so after 3 more miserable months she tried again to contact Ruhama and booked another appointment. She had tried to get an appointment with them a bit closer to home, but there was no budging, she would have to go back to Dublin again.

The timing couldn't have been worse. Again Sophie had to go and work in Dublin to get close by to Ruhama and had hoped to make some money, but this time it was deadly quiet due to an article in the papers exposing raids and sex workers. Thankfully despite this Sophie had €50 left after paying her expenses, so reluctantly she used the money to get to the appointment knowing that was all she had. She was so nervous and she found the place not at all discreet and felt like she might as well have a neon sign over her head saying 'hooker'.

Sophie met up with a lady named Sheila Crawley. She thought she was very nice and went through all the help they can offer her, which included advice with regards to benefits, careers, counselling and also offering massage and reflexology. Sophie told her about how difficult it was to get out to the appointment and that she didn't live in Dublin and that work had been bad, which meant that she had spent the only money that she had made to come and see her that day. Consequently Sheila told her she would assign her a Support Worker that would work with her and that they would focus on getting her signed on to benefits, get her some counselling and career advice.

Sophie had gone into the appointment nervous, but hopeful; she left believing that these people can't help, as it was clear that they didn't help people very often and the questions that they were asking her made it evident that they were not accustomed to talking to indoor sex workers and hadn't got a clue as to how they work.

A Week had passed by and Sophie had not heard back from Ruhama or her Support Worker, so she sent them an email asking about it. Shortly afterwards she received a phone call. Again the lady sounded lovely on the phone and Sophie explained that she had done some research and had been informed that she was not entitled to benefits, so benefits were not the way forward and again she expressed her determination and need to find a job outside of sex work. Her Support Worker arranged a meeting with her, but it wouldn't be for a Month to start things off and a few days later she sent her a number for the citizens advice bureau on benefits.

It seemed pointless after that and Sophie felt bewildered. Sophie didn't want to go onto benefits, but more importantly, she had already done the research and knew that she was not entitled to them and had explained this clearly to the support worker. Sophie felt exasperated and disappointed, as all they seemed to want to do was to get her on benefits, give her counselling and a massage. She also couldn't afford another €50 and seven hours on a bus there and back to go to an appointment for them to not offer her the help that she was actually asking for. She had more important things to spend the little money she was struggling on to pay bills and live. They didn't even contact her to see if she was okay, she could have been dead for all they cared.

In the mean time Sophie was in touch with another Escort and it was great, as she was able to speak with her and have conversations about work with someone who knew where she was coming from, who was non judgmental and understood what she was going through. They talked about Sophie wanting out and how long she had been looking for a job and even that she had gone to see Ruhama and that she was being asked to go back to Dublin again and wait another Month, but she wanted out now and she couldn't afford it. Her friend asked to see her C.V. and although it took her a while to email it over, eventually she did. Straight away her friend could see that the format for the CV was way out of date and focusing on the wrong things. It was an easy adjustment to make, but also vital, as the C.V is how you open doors to getting interviews. With a little help Sophie was guided as to how to make the changes and adapt each CV to the employer and straight away started applying for jobs.

Sophie was also glad of the emotional support as well as the guidance, just having someone she could off load to and be honest with about what had happened to her and how she feels.

Just a few Weeks later Sophie got news of two interviews, both in the same Week. Within a Week of the interviews Sophie was offered a job and is now happily working very hard in a normal job. She had gotten her life sorted out and is starting to feel the happiest she has been in years. The job she now has is not easy, in fact she's just worked 30+ hours over her first few days, but she wouldn't swap it for the world and as her friend, that makes me so very proud and happy and it also makes me so angry and frustrated that Ruhama were not there for her and couldn't do something as basic as a simple CV.

Sophie feels that Ruhama don't have any idea about indoor sex work, which is the now the majority of sex workers working in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, with only a tiny percentage still working outside. They need to realise it's very difficult for touring Escorts to be in Dublin to go to D9 for an appointment and the costs incurred, especially when work is difficult, as in her case where she was attacked and robbed and actually afraid to work. Ireland does not start and end with D9 and there are 32 other counties out there.

Sophie would hate to think if someone who was trafficked, how they would be able to get the help they needed, with the service being so inflexible. How exactly do they help them?

Now the official bit.

In the Official (Hansard) document dated 9th January 2014 - Committee for Justice - Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill: Ruhama

Ms Geraldine Rowley of Ruhama states that:

'When Ruhama was set up 25 years ago, prostitution was predominantly based in the major urban regions such as Belfast, Dublin, Galway, Cork and Limerick on the island of Ireland. However, over the years, particularly over the past decade, we have seen huge increase in prostitution. Because of the internet and because of less border control across Europe and on our own island, we have seen huge mobility in the sex trade. Due to that - our figures show this - the majority of women we have worked with in our services over the past number of years are foreign women who come from countries in eastern Europe, South America and Africa. It is very mobile, so we work with women who are located in and have been moved around Northern Ireland, and we have worked with victims of trafficking who were based in Northern Ireland.'

So... they are fully aware that sex workers today are mobile and they are not all in Dublin and that many are up in Northern Ireland and yet here Sophie is being given no help within her region, but is being told she has to go to Dublin to seek help and this is something she could not afford, which they were also aware of. How exactly are they helping these people if this is their normal response?

Ms Geraldine Rowley continues to say...

'Last year, we worked with 170 women in casework. Overall, we worked with 258 women.'

I am wondering if Sophie was classed as one of the 170, or one of the 258? Either way, they did nothing for her other than to cost her money, time and frustration. She was forced to work a whole Week in Dublin to secure that €50 in order to reach their office. When they were told of her plight they assigned her a support worker, who also ultimately wanted her to go to Dublin at her own expense. Not one euro of the funding that they get was offered her, so that she would not have to work in order to see them, despite them knowing that is what she was having to do to get there.

Further more Ms Rowley says...

'We provide a lot of face-to-face work. That is time-consuming. We also give support over the phone to women. If they are still involved in prostitution, they may not be able to travel to Dublin, so we try to help women to access their services locally in the community, wherever they are.'

I think the word 'try' is the most appropriate here. In Sophie's case they were suggesting she should go to the Citizen's Advice Bureau, which I'm sure she would have done herself if it had been the right place to go. They say they give job advice, but none was actually offered unless she went over to Dublin for a 3rd trip. They may 'try' to help, but they don't have the skill base and knowledge in which do so and that is the problem. They can't actually help most Sex Workers, as they are not geared up to work with today's sex worker.

In 2012, which is the year when Sophie first went for help and had that awful experience where she could not afford to make the appointment due to lack of work and funds, Ruhama had income of €602,284 of which €599,560 was used on administration fees. Can someone please explain to me how any business can spend that amount of money on administration fees in one year? Do they not have anyone to make sure they are paying the best possible prices and using the money given to them effectively so it reaches those that need it and not lines the pockets of others? I find this alone outrageous! No wonder they couldn't offer Sophie any help with transportation, or send someone over to her.

If Sophie is a typical case, then how many people approaching Ruhama actually get the help they need? How many fall along the way side and find themselves stuck in a situation that is eating them up inside? How many of them reach despair and end up taking their own lives or living a life not worth living? Yes there are people who need help out there. I am not disputing that, but I do dispute if they are getting the help they need and indeed if Ruhama are the people to give it to them. Would it not be better if there were Sex Workers actually involved or ex Sex Workers, who have a much better understanding of the conditions, the job and the problems involved? Women who are intelligent, skilled and more able to help? Women with a clear understanding, who are not looking to rid the streets of prostitution, but make it a better place to exist or exit from according to their needs.

Is this not money going down the drain where quite possibly the majority of those that reach out for help are not heard or seen, because of their inflexibility and inability to hear what people really need? So many assumptions being made, so much political involvement that leads to bias and distrust for all concerned. In my mind a body set up to help prostitutes should not show any bias, they should not show contempt for the people they are meant to be helping, they should purely show support and give it as best possible. They should grow with the trends and adapt. They should listen and learn and provide. I don't see Ruhama doing any of that, but they are certainly spending money and doing an awful lot of political campaigning, which in turn alienates them from the very people they claim to help.

Will this new law help those that need help the most? No! So why do Ruhama want it so bad? Who exactly will gain from this legislation? I'll leave it there for you to decide for yourself.

Thank you Sophie for sharing your story with me and I wish you all the best in your new life where you now feel safe and secure and for the first time in years... Happy!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Press release - Sex Workers Alliance Ireland. 25/11/2014

Proposed Law Criminalising Buyers of Sex Extremely Detrimental to Safety of Sex Workers, says Sex Workers Alliance Ireland

DUBLIN, Ireland; 25 November, 2014: Sex Workers Alliance Ireland is extremely concerned about legislation that would criminalise the purchase of sex, proposed today by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. This law is short-sighted and ignores the severe negative impacts it would have on the safety and health of sex workers, and the increased stigamtisation it would bring. Research from Queen's University Belfast has indicated that buyers will continue to purchase sex after the introduction of a similar law in Northern Ireland. There is also no evidence from Sweden, where this model originated, that its implementation has reduced demand.

The recent report from the government in Norway, where a similar law was introduced in 2009, shows that, since its implementation, sex workers are less likely to report crimes. The Norwegian inquiry highlights how sex workers have become more exposed to violence, because their main focus is to make clients feel safe, rather than focusing on their own safety. The Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman raised the fear that increased stigma is detrimental to health promotion and HIV-prevention, a claim backed by UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, that discourages criminalisation for this reason. The prestigious medical journal The Lancet, in a series on HIV and sex work, also criticised the criminalisation of the client on health grounds.

The Minister needs to take a human rights approach and listen to current sex workers, who will have to live with this law. Sex Workers Alliance Ireland holds firm its belief that decriminalisation is the ideal model to keep sex workers safe.