Govt urged to criminalise paying for sex


New legislation should criminalise those who buy sex and not the victims of sexual exploitation, it was urged today.

Ruhama, which support those preyed on for prostitution and human trafficking, called on the Government to learn from laws passed in Sweden nine years ago.

The organisation said politicians need to examine Swedish rulings before passing the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill, which is due before the Oireachtas.

Geraldine Rowley of Ruhama said campaigners still have concerns about the emerging legislation.

"We believe that Ireland needs to send out a clear message that the purchasing of women for sexual services is a crime," she said.

"After drugs and arms, human trafficking is the third largest area of criminal activity in the world. Ireland needs to take a stand against organised crime and having the correct legislation in place is crucial to achieving this."

Agneta Bucknell, former head of the Prostitution Centre with social services in Sweden, said since 1999 almost 250 men have been fined for purchasing sexual services while the number of prostitutes on the streets has halved.

Ms Bucknell, who has worked with victims of prostitution and trafficking, said the move to criminalise the buyer has also resulted in a significant drop in organised crime in her home country.

"Thousands of women around the world are being viciously and violently abused by traffickers and much of this can be avoided if individual countries have effective legislation in place," she said during a trip to Ruhama's Dublin office.

"These people who have trafficked others across borders are also handling weapons and narcotics. Our legislation has significantly reduced the impact of organised crime."

Ms Bucknell said just 12 per cent of the male population in Sweden have paid for sex, compared to almost 75 per cent in Germany where prostitution was legalised.

She said politicians have a responsibility to protect these vulnerable and abused women.

"The Irish government will fail in its efforts to combat international criminals involved in trafficking if it does not criminalise the service users and traffickers," she added.

"Unless we challenge the demand side of prostitution (that is the purchasers of sexual services) it will always continue to be a blight on our society.

"To combat organised crime we need to send out a clear message that Ireland does not tolerate traffickers of women and children."