Sexual exploitation of migrant women


THERE ARE an estimated 1,000 women in Ireland who are being sexually exploited for money, most of them migrants, a Dublin conference heard yesterday.

The conference, organised by the Dignity project, was told that the Swedish system of criminalising the purchasing of sex was effective in combating the problem. The cities of Stockholm and Barcelona both have populations of 1.5 million, yet the Swedish capital has approximately 200 people working in prostitution while Barcelona has 20,000, the conference on sex trafficking and prostitution in Ireland was told.

Buying sex has been a crime in Sweden since legislation was passed there in 1999. This is not yet the case in Spain – or in Ireland. The conference was the culmination of two years of work and research funded by the EU. The work was led by the Immigration Council of Ireland and the Dublin Employment Pact, with partners in Scotland, Spain and Lithuania.

For the last two years, they have been looking at initiatives in other countries that protect victims of sex trafficking. These included looking at the provision of emergency accommodation for victims.

“In our two-year examination of systems to curb sex trafficking, one of the most effective initiatives we looked at was legislation introduced in Sweden that criminalise the purchasing of sex,” Dignity’s project co-ordinator, Grainne Healy, told delegates. “This legislation has brought about a reduction in demand for prostitution and trafficking.”

In a panel discussion chaired by MEP Proinsias De Rossa, Denise Charlton of the Immigrant Council of Ireland also stressed the need for co-operation between various agencies, stressing that although “there are really committed people from agencies working to address sex trafficking in Ireland, the infrastructure isn’t working. There are thousands of women for sale on the internet on any given day in Ireland. It’s such a difficult crime to prosecute.”