Prostitute says attacks have reached crisis point


VIOLENCE against prostitutes in Dublin has risen steadily since legislation increasing penalties on prostitution was introduced three years ago, a women's conference in Dublin was told at the week end.

The conference, on Feminism, Politics, Community, organised by the Women's Education Research and Resource Centre at UCD, brought more than 250 feminists, community activists, scholars and researchers together to discuss topics affecting women.

Attacks against women on the streets have reached a crisis point, the conference was told. A Dublin prostitute identified only as Trisha said that in one week last month, four women were raped.

"It is becoming more and more dangerous for women on the streets. When the Government decriminalised homosexuality three years ago they also slipped in increased powers for the police to deal with prostitution. Because of the new legislation women are being picked up by the police more often, they don't get to study the clients and therefore more and more women are being raped and badly beaten", she said.

"Because of the fear of being arrested, women will not report the attacks."

The number of drug users turning to prostitution to feed their habit is also on the increase, said Trisha. "We are very concerned about it. Women on the streets normally take precautions but a lot of drug users are not and the number of young drug users on the streets in now very high.

"The health clinic run or prostitutes by the Eastern Health Board was closed a number of years ago and we would like to see that reopened so that drug users particularly can have a clinic to: go to", she said.

The annual conference, which was hold in UCD, focused on the experiences, relationships and issues for and between women working in a variety of contexts. There were debates on the changing face of feminism in Ireland, racism and minorities, and the role of women in policy and decision making.

The conference aimed to reflects on the diverse meanings of feminism in political projects inspired by the women's movement and those rooted in the community.

Ms Ailbhe Smyth, who chaired the opening session, said she hoped the conference provided an opportunity for different perspectives and policies, issues and strategies to be discussed.