Sunday 11 December 2016

'Changes to law will put sex workers in danger'

Norma Costello and Mairia Cahill

Published 23/08/2015 | 02:30

Picture posed
Picture posed

An Irish dominatrix has said she will bring a constitutional challenge to any law passed in Ireland criminalising the clients of prostitutes.

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Laura Lee, (37) who has been involved in sex work for 18 years, is based in Scotland but visits Ireland regularly.

The mother of one is now a sex workers' rights activist and has inspired novels based on her previous experiences as a sex worker.

Lee, who studied law in her native Dublin, is currently challenging a law in Northern Ireland that criminalises the clients of sex workers, a law that is due to be replicated in the Republic next year. She said the new laws will put female sex workers in danger.

"If the Minister for Justice persists in pushing this law through, I will raise a constitutional challenge against her in the Supreme Court," she said.

Lee claims the controversial 'Swedish Model" - which criminalises men who buy sex - will drive sex work underground, making it more dangerous for the women working in the industry.

Her stance has been backed by Amnesty International, which this month voted in favour of policies decriminalising prostitution at the group's council meeting, attended by 450 delegates in Dublin.

Amnesty's decision has come under fire from celebrities including Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson, as well as Ruhama, the agency that works with sex workers in Ireland.

The Cork Sexual Violence Centre has withdrawn its membership from Amnesty International, following the vote.

Director Mary Crilly said: "I think they should have stayed out of this one, I think that it is a human right not to be bought. Amnesty is arguing it should be a human rights issue to pay for sex.

"They're effectively saying it is okay to buy someone's body, whether it is a young man or a young woman."

Crilly has been working in the field for 32 years, and believes Amnesty's decision to lobby to decriminalise the area will cause "harm".

"If I thought this empowered women to be a sex worker, I'd be the first in line to try and push for it but that's not what I'm seeing," she added.

Sunday Independent

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