Groups disagree over prostitution

Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 00:00

Support groups for abused women and sex workers have disagreed over the effectiveness of a Swedish method of dealing with prostitution.

The Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality yesterday heard that Sweden had made it a crime to buy sexual services, but not to sell them.

Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid, said she supported the Swedish approach. She compared it to the prosecution of people for physical abuse of women, where women felt they could give evidence as they were not in fear of prosecution themselves.

Ms Martin said where prostitution was legalised, a situation known as “lover boys” had arisen, where men groomed younger women for prostitution while pretending to be their boyfriends. She said there was evidence that “lover boy” situations were happening in Ireland.

Swedish example

However, Dr Teresa Whitaker, secretary of the Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland, said any change in the law along the Swedish example would be a mistake.

She said Sweden had not been successful in eliminating prostitution or trafficking, but there was ample evidence from around the world that prohibition just drove the industry underground.

Dr Whitaker said her contact with sex workers had raised concerns that should prostitution be driven more underground, it would be very difficult for those involved – and their customers ­– to access health services.

Senator Mary White said she had compassion for those who had no access to “legitimate sexual relationships”. She said people had an obvious psychological and physical need for sex and she asked if the selling of sex should not be legitimised to protect the buyer and the seller.