Changing the law on prostitution
Sir, – Dan O’Brien proffers his characteristically economistic vision of human relations to intervene in the debate surrounding legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex (Business Opinion, August 23rd). He bolsters his arguments with reference to a recent critique of the proposed legislation by Eilís Ward which questioned the evidence base for the planned changes. Critiques such as Ward’s remind us of the necessity of appropriately nuanced public debate; they may point to the need for more and better research. They may even – I don’t know – lead us to conclude that the legislation as currently set out provides an inadequate basis upon which to advance the rights and dignity of those working in prostitution.
But it is quite a leap from this to serve up, as O’Brien does, the tired liberal cliche about “two consenting adults” while remaining wilfully blind to the socio-economic conditions under which such consent is often offered. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I couldn’t disagree more with Dan O’Brien’s arguments on prostitution (Business Opinion, August 23rd). He does seem to understand that prostitution is a world built on sexual violence and criminality. However, treating that form of sexual abuse like any other business is a fundamental thinking error. His reliance on Dr Eilís Ward’s article is also flawed. She did not dismantle the argument for criminalising the users of prostitution. All she did was debate statistical data-gathering methodologies, which is far from the same thing.
The most effective way to make an impact on prostitution is to reduce the demand for it. Without customers there is no trade, as anyone in business knows. If users have to think twice about the legal implications of using prostitution that will certainly affect their behaviour. This works in the same way that someone who wants to light up a cigarette in a pub has to consider if it’s worth risking a fine for the momentary pleasure of a nicotine hit. The smoking ban has been a spectacularly successful health policy. Criminalising the users of the sex industry could be just as important in improving the health of the women and girls who are victims of this form of sexual exploitation.
Prostitution is not like any other business and cannot be treated in that way. It needs to discouraged, not facilitated or sanitised and certainly not exploited for potential tax revenue, as O’Brien suggests. – Yours, etc,
Child Welfare Consultant,
Kilmainham, Dublin 8.