Independent TD Mick Wallace has said prostitution should be legalised.
“I disagree very strongly with criminalising the purchase of consensual sex,’’ he said.
He told the Dáil on Wednesday night he would oppose the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, which criminalises “paying to engage in sexual activity with a prostitute’’.
The Bill is currently being debated by the House.
“If this Bill is successful, I believe it will signify the re-involvement of the State in the private sexual lives of adult citizens for the first time since homosexuality was decriminalised over 20 years ago,’’ he said.
Mr Wallace said it seemed the Turn Off the Red Light campaign had turned many heads, but that he was unimpressed by it.
“Its logic is being applied at the expense of the testimony and first-hand experience of individual sex workers and international experience.’’
He said he found it incredible the voices of sex workers were not being listened to.
Mr Wallace said a 2010 report by Anan Grover, the former UN special rapporteur on the right to health, had said the trafficking and enforced sexual slavery of any person was abhorrent and undoubtedly merited criminal prohibition.
However the report had added that the conflation of consensual sex work and sex trafficking in legislation led to, at best, the implementation of inappropriate responses that failed to assist either of those groups in realising their rights, and, at worst, to violence and oppression.
Mr Wallace said that confusion, between prostitution and sex trafficking, was a difficult starting point from which to develop a coherent policy framework, or to draft responsible legislation.
He said the “abhorrent crime’’ of sex trafficking was, thankfully, already illegal under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008.
Mr Wallace said last year’s use of emotive images of children by the Turn Off the Red Light campaign was particularly misleading, given the proposed change in the Bill would not make sex with a child any more illegal that it already is.
“A child does not have the mental capacity to consent to sex,’’ he added.
“Any adult who has sex with a child after this Bill is passed will be charged with statutory rape and not with the purchase of consensual sex from a prostitute.’’