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Justice Minister Helen McEntee says she wants Irish escort websites offering Ukrainian women for sex shut down

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Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocallireland

Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocallireland

Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocallireland

Irish escort websites, which saw a surge in searches for Ukrainian sex workers after the war, could be shut down or banned.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said she would “love” to see such websites closed down but often sites advertising the sale of sex were basing their servers in other countries.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, one of Ireland’s biggest escort websites encouraged men to live out their “war-inspired” fantasies by paying for sex with Ukrainian women. After the outbreak of the war, the same website reported a 250pc increase in searches for Ukrainian women.

Speaking at the launch of a new national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, Ms McEntee said banning websites that advertise the sale of sex was a “hugely challenging space”.

Since 2017, a law has made it illegal to pay for sex in Ireland. The ban also applies to websites which advertise escorts.

“We have banned these types of websites. Unfortunately, where their server is or where they’re being run from moved to Ireland to the UK, it was then banned there and moved to Spain,” Ms McEntee said.

“While we are doing everything that we can to make sure that our laws are clear, in other jurisdictions where it’s not illegal there is a challenge there. We are exploring geo-blocking and other types of ways in which we could prevent these sites from operating. But it is obviously a very difficult space.”

Ms McEntee said there are “thousands of men every week who are paying for sex”, often from women who have been trafficked and abused.

On websites that advertise Ukrainian sex workers, Ms McEntee added: “I would love to see them shut down.”

She said there was an “increased concern” that many Ukrainian women and children coming into Ireland as refugees may have already been victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

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The prominent Irish escort website has since deleted parts of a blog post where it discussed a “significant increase in interest in Ukrainian escorts”.

The blog post had tried to argue that it would be better to seek out a Ukrainian escort in Ireland than to look for pornography featuring Ukrainian women.

“It’s a much more ethical and most importantly consensual and healthy way to live out any war-inspired fantasy than exploiting real life misfortune of others,” it said, while also claiming using Ukrainian escorts was a better way to show “solidarity” with Ukrainian people.

Of a number of Ukrainian profiles on the website, many are from women who say they are new to the area.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was “shocked” at the rise in searches for Ukrainian sex workers, and the Government would “continue to look for new ways to shut this down”.

Children’s, Equality and Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman said his department is bringing forward measures to have specific accommodation for victims of trafficking. Ireland has been repeatedly criticised by human rights organisations for putting trafficking victims into Direct Provision centres.

“For too long, we haven’t had a specific residential accommodation in place for them,” Mr O’Gorman said.


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