AN Eastern European woman who works as a prostitute in Dublin has spoken out against proposals to criminalise men who pay for sex, saying it will drive women voluntarily working in the trade onto the streets and into "graveyards".
Known as 'Rachel', the 27-year-old Romanian said she has been working in Ireland on and off since 2009. She said she was happy in her work, adding: "My clients are very nice."
She charges €100 for a half-hour, has never been coerced and describes herself as an "independent sex worker".
Her website page lists a variety of sexual services and in its "review" section there are complimentary comments from a hundred clients.
The woman said she was speaking out because she felt that the views of prostitutes in Ireland were not being properly heard by the Dail Justice Committee, which held hearings last week and is considering proposals put forward by groups seeking the criminalisation of men who pay for sex.
The groups, under the collective title 'Turn off the Red Light', are seeking the adoption of the legislation referred to as the "Sweden model", which criminalises clients.
However, opponents say it has also contributed to the situation where Sweden now has among the highest levels of sexual crimes in Europe.
In cases brought by Swedish police, evidence has been given of police listening at doors of apartments and hearing sounds that they said sounded like people having sex. Men generally receive fines but their identities are given in open court.
"They say they want to end prostitution but tell me of a country in the world where there is no prostitution. The majority of sex workers are working of their free will," said 'Rachel'.
"I have never, ever been coerced. I have never been trafficked. I began working in Spain, then I stopped when I was in a relationship and worked as a waitress. It was hard work.
"People work to make money for a house or a car or holidays or to make money because their mother is sick. For me I can more or less work when I want. Tomorrow if I wanted to go and work in a nightclub I could do that.
"I did it before. I don't need somebody to put pressure on me to do something else. When I was in Spain I stopped when I had a boyfriend. I left because I wanted to. But I was earning €900 in a month. It was hard work.
"I am not working to make a fortune. I am working to pay for my normal life. Everyone works at jobs to make money to keep living. It is the same with me. It is my choice and I don't want anyone to take my living from me."
Referring to the Dail Committee, she said: "I would like them to speak to sex workers in Sweden. They are treated like criminals. The police break down their doors and spy on them. They are being driven on to the streets.
"It is dangerous now for sex workers in Sweden. They are working in streets and in graveyards.
"Would the gardai have the resources to spend time spying on independent sex workers if they brought in this law?"
"Under the law here, a girl has to work on her own. If there are two girls, they are prosecuted for brothel-keeping. All you want is not to have a criminal record for sharing an apartment because they seek protection with another escort.
"We don't want to live looking over our shoulders. The girls want to be safe and working with a girl in another room she can help if you cry or scream. It is protection."
'Rachel' said the only time she had suffered coercion was from a number of men she said were Latvians who were living in an apartment under one she was working from in Belfast.
She explained: "They were out in the corridor all the time, drinking at 2am. At six in the morning they were banging on my door.
"What is the worry here? My clients are all nice and clean and lovely. We also are very clean and very careful about our health. We are not like stupid girls who get drunk and have sex in a toilet without a condom. Girls do not offer services they are not comfortable with."