Over 100 women trafficked for sex industry in Ireland


TRAFFICKING REPORT: MORE THAN 100 women and girls were identified as having been trafficked into Ireland for the sex industry in a 21-month period, new research has found.

Authors of the report, Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution – The Experiences of Migrant Women In Ireland,say this figure is “just the tip of the iceberg”.

Of the 102, identified by 10 welfare groups and service-providers between January 2007 and September 2008, 11 were children when trafficked.

Commissioned by the Immigrant Council of Ireland and carried out with the Health Service Executive and Ruhama – an outreach organisation working with prostitutes – the report identified a “heartbreaking litany of rape, abuse and exploitation”.

The report, written by policy analysts Monica O’Connor and Jane Pillinger, uses the UN definition of “trafficking”. This is: “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of threat, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, [or] the abuse of power of a position of vulnerability . . . to achieve the consentof a person for the purpose of exploitation.”

“Consent” is irrelevant, according to the UN, as the vast majority of people trafficked for prostitution see little or no viable alternative at the time.

The researchers interviewed 12 trafficked women, from impoverished regions including Africa, eastern Europe and Central/South America, who spoke of having been told they would get work in dance clubs or the tourism sector and of having false documents arranged for them.

Once they got to Ireland, their documents were taken from them, rendering them illegal immigrants. Many were raped by pimps and/or traffickers “to make them compliant” and then put to work seeing up to 10 men a day.

“The accounts of trafficked women are of captivity, isolation, shame and betrayal, combined with systematic sexual exploitation and rape,” says the report.

Of 63 of the women who gave details on violent experiences, 45 had experienced physical violence, 35 had been raped and 18 had been gang-raped.

The authors stressed that the 102 listed were just the women they managed to identify through contacts with service-providers. They said there were more than 1,000 women in indoor prostitution at any one time.

Examining Irish “escort” internet sites, they found women representing 51 nationalities. Some 97 per cent of women advertised were migrants.

They ranged in age from 18 to 58, averaging 25 years, with evidence that some were as young as 16. They were advertised in hotels, apartments and as call-outs to homes in 19 of the 26 counties.

The women said they had to be available for sex 24 hours a day and some were “very distressed at the range of abnormal sexual acts they were asked to perform”.

Many men wanted them to drink and take drugs with them, and many were “under increasing pressure to engage in unsafe sexual acts including unprotected oral, vaginal and anal sex”.

Some 37 per cent of the 102 women experienced bacterial vaginosis, 22 per cent hepatitis A, 20 per cent hepatitis B and 14 per cent had genital warts. There were cases of damage to the vagina and uterus, and breakdown of the skin associated with prolonged use of lubricants and gels.

The long-term psychological impacts are less certain. The women experienced constant anxiety, particularly about violence.

One, named as Anara from Brazil, was quoted as saying: “I feel like nothing. I feel dirty. I feel confused and upset all the time. I want to get out of this work. I want a normal life. I am tired of all the lies . . . lies, lies, lies to everyone, to my family, my friends. I do not want to lie, but how can I tell the truth. I have lived inside this world and the normal world outside is lost to me, I feel I have no future.”