Monday 10 December 2018

Group representing sex workers criticises new report

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says the report fails to address the reality of the lives of sex workers in all their diversity.

(PA)
(PA)

By Aoife Moore, Press Association

A group representing Irish sex workers has criticised a new report that encourages the criminalisation of the purchase of sex.

Disrupt Demand, a report published on Tuesday by The Immigrant Council of Ireland, found the Swedish approach – which was introduced in Ireland last year – has proved to be effective against sex trafficking and targeting demand.

In Sweden, the state adopted the position that prostitution is a form of violence against women and those purchasing sex should be arrested.

However, Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says the report fails to address the reality of the lives of sex workers in all their diversity.

The group says it has seen the law do the “opposite” of protecting sex workers – putting them at more risk of exploitation by third parties, clients and landlords.

Kate McGrew, director of SWAI, said that violence against sex workers has increased since the law changed in Ireland in 2017.

“We have seen an increase in attacks against sex workers, including a spate of violent knife attacks a few months after the law was introduced in the Republic of Ireland,” she said.

“There has also been an increase in trafficking in Northern Ireland in the last year, which seems to be the opposite of what this law was purported to do, which was not raised in the report.

“Are currently working sex workers collateral damage in the futile quest to eradicate sex work entirely?

“We see organisations who support further criminalisation of sex work minimise or ignore the harms and negative impacts that come from criminalisation.”

SWAI says the report wrongly conflates human trafficking and exploitation with sex work.

The group recognises exploitation, violence, harm and safety issues exist, however it argues most sex workers did not want client criminalisation as a means to address these issues.

“Conflating human trafficking with all sex work only serves to marginalise and silence those best placed to report exploitative situations, and fails to acknowledge the choices women may make to migrate to engage in sex work,” Ms McGrew adds.

“The best way to tackle human trafficking is to strengthen identification procedures and prevention measures within the trafficking framework.

“It’s much easier to criminalise the purchase of sex work and brothel-keeping than to face that the compounding factors that make people susceptible to exploitation are too complex to be solved, with a broad stroke, by making a job illegal and shaming it out of existence,” she said.

“Poverty is the driving factor in instances of trafficking.

“It is not subsidiary to demand for sexual services as the report states.

“When people have to use third parties to migrate and find work across borders, they are more likely to see the terms of their agreement change or be taken completely out of their control. Their vulnerability becomes manifold. The report fails to address this reality for migrant sex workers.”

In Ireland, the review of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 2017 is due to take place in 2020.

Press Association

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