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Ruhama calls for respect, dignity

Sir -- I am writing in response to Jim Cusack's piece, 'Revealed: the life of a 'working girl' in Ireland today' (Sunday Independent, April 10, 2011).

Ruhama is an NGO that works with women affected by prostitution. The ethos of the organisation is simple: respect for the dignity of every individual human being, and our work is entirely non-judgmental.

We work with women actively involved in prostitution, women seeking to exit, women with a past experience of prostitution and those who have been trafficked.

Mr Cusack's article references Ruhama's "attempts to outlaw female prostitution" and a "total ban on sex workers".

This is wholly inaccurate. Since its establishment, Ruhama has consistently called for greater support for and recognition of the human rights for those involved in prostitution. We call for the decriminalisation of those who sell sex in Ireland in recognition of the fact that this is already a stigmatised and vulnerable group. However, it is essential also to acknowledge the reality of criminally organised prostitution and human trafficking, and to recognise that the life for the vast majority of those in prostitution is one that is high-risk and dangerous.

In the article, a woman involved in prostitution is interviewed and notes that her work is made safer by the ability to "reference" her clients.

This is a rare luxury in an industry where those being bought have very little, if any, control over, or knowledge of, who their buyers are.

Similarly to the interviewee, all of the women Ruhama has worked with have had "bad experiences" and these have ranged from threats, verbal abuse to physical assault. There is no other "job" where the risk of rape or abuse are daily hazards of the "work". There is no other "service" where it is a person's actual body that is being bought.

Sarah Benson, CEO

Ruhama

Sunday Independent