Sex Workers Alliance criticises Government legislation

Group says new bill will endanger sex workers at vigil outside Leinster House

The Sex Workers Alliance  criticised the new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill at a candlelit vigil outside Leinster House.   Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

The Sex Workers Alliance criticised the new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill at a candlelit vigil outside Leinster House. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

The Government’s new laws for prostitution will endanger sex workers and do nothing to reduce sex trafficking, representatives of the Sex Workers Alliance said at a vigil last night.

Under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill approved by the Government last month, people who pay for sex will face criminal sanction.

At a candlelit vigil outside Leinster House to mark International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers, sex worker and star of RTÉs Connected Kate McGrew said misinformation and stigmatisation in relation to the industry has led to false public impressions.

“There is a lot of misinformation that gets bandied about, statistics that get plucked and misunderstood all over the place,” she said. “People can’t understand that sex work is not inherently violent. There is nothing inherently violent about consensual adults entering into transactional sex.

“It can actually be a very important service and a good job. There are people working who do enjoy the work, or who enjoy it as much as they would any other job in the service industry.”

Ms McGrew added that the changes to Irish law would make sex workers “less safe” and urged those at the vigil - including Independent TDs Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Joan Collins - to “mobilise” and “fight the legislation”.

“The reason why it’s not a good job is because we don’t have laws that really support us,” she said. “This proposed legislation puts us so much more in harm’s way. Ironically, we are focused on our clients’ safety, as opposed to ourselves.”

‘Clear boundaries’

Sex Workers Alliance spokeswoman Catriona O’Brien said the new laws would lead to “harried negotiations” and the absence of “clear boundaries” between sex workers and their clients.

“I would propose decriminalisation,” she said. “It would involve moving from criminal law to civil and labour law. It would be recognised as a type of work. People could unionise and have safety in the workplace.”

There was a minute’s silence during the vigil for sex workers who have lost their lives in the industry, and the names of seven sex workers who have been killed in Ireland were read out.