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Three-quarters of Irish prostitutes have gone to college

THREE-quarters of prostitutes working the streets in Ireland have a third-level education, according to a survey of women, men and transsexuals offering their services on the internet.

A total of 159 female, 16 males and 17 transgender sex workers participated in the survey carried out by UglyMugs, the UK agency which helps prostitutes report dangerous clients and which liaises with police forces.

One of its main findings on sex workers' experience of crime is that two-thirds of those who suffered assaults or robberies did not report the crimes to gardai, mainly for fear of being exposed in subsequent court proceedings.

There was also a low level of trust in gardai with 35.5 of respondents saying they believed the gardai would "do nothing". Only 21.8 per cent said they would report a crime to gardai. Some 62.1 per cent said they suffered long- lasting anxiety after being victims of crime.

The survey shows the international nature of sex workers in Ireland. The respondents came from a total of 30 countries with the largest number, 25 per cent, from Romania. Twenty-one of those who completed questions were Irish.

In response to questions on education, four said they had no education, nine only at primary level, 34 to secondary level but a total of 140, or 74.9 per cent, said they had third-level education. Forty per cent reported having fluent English as a second language.

The largest age group – 50 per cent – was between 25 and 34. One respondent said she was under 18 and one over 65.

More than half, 53 per cent, said they had worked in another country before coming to Ireland. For 72.4 per cent, sex work was their main source of income and 27.6 per cent said it was their secondary source.

None said they began sex work under the age of 16 but 6.8 per cent said they began between the ages of 16 and 17. Seventy-six per cent said they began between the ages of 18 and 24. The vast majority, 97.3 per cent, said they worked for themselves and kept all their earnings.

Just over 30 per cent said they saw between 11 and 20 clients a week. Twenty-eight per cent had six to 10 clients and two per cent said they had between 60 and 70 clients per week. One reported having over 70 clients per week.

They also gave an impression of being abstemious. Seventy-six per cent said they never drank alcohol while working and 20 per cent said they only drank lightly. However, 3.2 per cent said they drank heavily. A similar picture appeared with drug abuse, with 93.6 per cent saying they never used drugs. None said they were heavy drug users.

The report is the first extensive study carried out into the sex trade here. UglyMugs, the group which conducted the survey over July and August, said it revealed the lack of support for sex workers in Ireland.

"The current situation in Ireland is that there is an almost total lack of support services for sex workers, primarily because the main service providers in all sectors, legal advice, rape crisis, domestic violence, are anti-sex work.

"Even the government health service for sex workers, the Women's Health Project Dublin, is anti-sex work," it said.

The report also denounced the proposal by the Dail's Justice Committee to criminalise the purchase of sex as, it says, this would drive sex work further underground. The Dail Committee did not carry out a survey before making its recommendations in June but heard from a large number of anti-prostitution and religious groups.

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