Groups seek change to sex laws
Campaigners have stepped up their fight to change the law so people who pay for sex can be convicted instead of those who sell it.
The Turn Off the Red Light group submitted its case for outlawing paid sex to the Dáil committee reviewing the laws on prostitution.
The coalition of 56 organisations, which represent men and woman from every section of Irish life, said its document outlines how changing the law will make it far more difficult for pimps, people traffickers and other criminals to continue their exploitation of women.
Similar proposals have been put forward to change the legislation in Northern Ireland.
Denise Charlton, of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, wants the Government to amend the 1993 Sexual Offences Act to criminalise the purchase of sex, while decriminalising those who sell sexual acts.
“We believe that following the Swedish model and introducing legislation to criminalise demand will act as a deterrent for people who buy sex,” she said.
“We also recommend that the change in legislation would be complemented by enhanced and sustained support services for people in prostitution who wish to exit.
“A diminished demand for purchase of sex, leading to a diminished trade, would support An Garda Síochána in prioritising their limited resources to effectively target persistent criminality.”
Since 1999, legislation in Sweden has criminalised the sex buyer instead of the prostitute, who is treated as a vulnerable party.
Campaigners said street prostitution in Sweden has halved since the introduction of the ban, adding that there is no evidence it has been pushed underground.
Turn Off the Red Light said its proposal - which was submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence - points to research suggesting current laws have failed and allow Ireland’s sex industry to thrive.
It maintains a thousand women are offered for sex daily through the internet, with up to 90 per cent wanting to leave the sex industry but feel they cannot.
Children were also being exploited through prostitution every year, the group said.