Rise in sex workers seeking support services

Women from more than 30 countries working in Irish sex trade, says Ruhama

Ruhama says the majority of those working  in the indoor sex trade in Ireland are migrants.

Ruhama says the majority of those working in the indoor sex trade in Ireland are migrants.


The only voluntary organisation in the State supporting women affected by prostitution was accessed by more women last year than any in its over 20-year history.

Ruhama, which has been operating since 1989, published its annual report yesterday and told how in 2012 some 258 women from 32 different countries accessed its frontline services.

“The sex trade is thriving in Ireland and is not just confined to the major towns and cities,” the report says.

The organisation, which was founded as a joint initiative of the Good Shepherd Sisters and Our Lady of Charity Sisters, had face-to-face contacts on 908 occasions with 170 women last year. It made or received over 13,000 phone calls and more than 5,200 text supports.

Its outreach van, which engages with women in on-street prostitution, went out on 108 nights and engaged with 62 individual women.

Ruhama’s chief executive Sarah Benson said the high number of different nationalities underlined the fact that Ireland was an attractive location and destination for international sex-traffickers.

“This small island remains a destination for traffickers, pimps and procurers from all corners of the globe. The bulk of the prostitution in Ireland is connected with organised criminality. For the women and girls we work with – far from home, isolated and often highly controlled or literally coerced through trafficking, it is a dangerous and damaging experience. It is also beyond doubt that prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation are inextricably linked.”

The countries from which the women and girls who engaged with Ruhama last year came are, Canada, Columbia, Peru, Brazil, South Africa, Malawi, Lesotho, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Uganda, Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia, Ghana, Senegal, Pakistan, China, Georgia, Kurdistan, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Spain, Wales, England, Latvia and Ireland.

The report stresses the move from street prostitution to mainly indoor prostitution in ‘brothels’ run mainly from apartments has not made it safer. The report says women have been raped, robbed and physically assaulted.

The indoor trade, it says, is effectively controlled by organised gangs. The move indoor has also changed the nature of the encounters.

Women involved in indoor prostitution describe how the encounters with buyers take longer, having to involve greater nudity as well as ‘entertaining’ the buyers before and after the sexual acts.

It has also made it far more difficult for support organisations and the Gardai to make contact with and support the women.