Target buyers of sex not prostitutes, politicians told
FINANCIAL exploitation by pimps and traffickers would come to an end if new laws go ahead to criminalise the purchase of sex, campaigners have said.
Legislation to make it an offence to pay for sex, yet not to penalise the prostitute selling sexual services, have been recommended.
Sarah Benson, chief executive of Ruhama, said targeting those who pay for sex was the "most effective way" to tackle trafficking and end exploitation of vulnerable people engaged in prostitution. Among the changes recommended to the laws on prostitution by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice were increased penalties for those caught trafficking people for sexual exploitation, and those organising the €200m a year business.
Currently, prostitutes are penalised rather than those paying for sex.
Other legal reforms include giving gardai power to have a telephone number disabled if it is believed to be used for prostitution. It also urged that accessing websites advertising prostitution should be treated in same way as accessing sites advertising or distributing child pornography and that the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) be tasked with focusing on the flow of money from the lucrative industry.
Fine Gael TD David Stanton, chair of the committee, which also heard stories from survivors of prostitution, said they had found persuasive the evidence of the reduction in demand for prostitution in Sweden since a ban on buying sex.
Mr Stanton said he believed such a ban could be "effectively and efficiently" policed by gardai.
Figures provided to the committee estimated 800 women were for sale online in Ireland each day and 134 people, including children, were trafficked for sexual exploitation over a three-year period.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland – which joined the 'Turn Off the Red Light' campaign to change the laws – urged Justice Minister Alan Shatter to consider the committee's recommendations as swiftly as possible.
Ms Benson said their frontline service dealt with hundreds of women every year who have lived with the "dangers and devastating harm" of the sex trade.