Former US President Jimmy Carter has called on the Irish Government to enforce tough new laws to target pimps and those buying sex.
President Carter said politicians must act to end the exploitation, abuse and trafficking of women and girls.
In a letter to members of the Oireachtas, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, he said Ireland has made significant progress towards changing the law.
However 12 months have passed since the Oireachtas Justice Committee made its recommendation, he said.
“There is little doubt that public exposure in a trial and the imposition of a fine or jail time for a few men who are prominent citizens or police officers who were buying or profiting from the sex trade would prove to be an extremely effective deterrent,” President Carter, a member of the Elders, wrote to TDs and senators.
“Prostitution is inherently violent towards women and girls and I support efforts to help those who are trapped in this industry.
“I hope that you will lead your nation towards the protection of prostituted women and girls with a sense of urgency.”
President Carter wrote to politicians after he was briefed on the issue by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, one of the 70 organisations which make up the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign.
The organisation is in the final stages of preparing draft legislation which will make the buying of sex illegal with fines of up to €3,000 and possible imprisonment for repeat offenders.
Mr Carter said the limited progress towards criminalising the buyers of sex in Ireland was significant and would help bring long-term funding for exit programmes to assist prostitutes to escape exploitation.
He said the reform would also help develop awareness to promote the equality of women and reveal the violence, inequality and coercion in the vice trade.
Mr Carter, a member of the Elders group of human rights activists brought together by the late Nelson Mandela in 2007, said he was particularly encouraged by the unanimous political support for the changes.
Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council, said: "This contribution by a global figure who enjoys international respect again shows the importance of the debate which has taken place here in Ireland and the need for urgent political leadership to bring this issue to a conclusion."
The organisation said similar reforms are expected to be enforced in Canada before Christmas following the example first set by Sweden.