New draft legislation on sexual offences which will criminalise those who purchase sex has been approved by the Cabinet.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald brought the proposed law to the meeting on Wednesday.
The proposed legislation aims to provide greater protections for children from sexual exploitation and updates the law in the area of grooming.
While it proposes to criminalise the purchase of sex, it is understood that it will not decriminalise soliciting in public, or sex work in brothels.
The Bill will also contain new and strengthened offences to tackle child pornography.
It provides for a judge at sentencing to include a period of prohibition preventing sex offenders from working with children and vulnerable people.
It strengthens the post-release supervision regime and the monitoring of sex offenders.
The Bill also introduces a new harassment order.
These orders may be imposed on people convicted of sexual offences, “prohibiting that person from doing certain specified things which may cause fear, distress or alarm to the victim or his or her family or friends”.
The Bill also corrects an anomaly in law by providing for the alignment of the penalties for an offence committed by either a man or women in cases of incest.
The age of consent will remain at 17 in the Bill.
The heads of the Bill were published in November. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill is expected to be published on Thursday.