Housing crisis ‘puts sex workers at risk of exploitation’

Sex workers in Ireland forced to move or stay in unsuitable accommodation, activists say

‘People are struggling to find somewhere to live as it is, imagine what it’s like for a sex worker.’

‘People are struggling to find somewhere to live as it is, imagine what it’s like for a sex worker.’


Ireland’s housing crisis is putting vulnerable sex workers at risk from exploitative landlords, activists have said.

A lack of affordable rented accommodation and rising rents are compounded by some workers’ inability to provide proof of income or employment history, forcing them to move or stay in unsuitable accommodation, campaigners said.

Kate McGrew, from Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI), said women and men are placing themselves in potentially dangerous situations due to a lack of housing options.

“People are struggling to find somewhere to live as it is, imagine what it’s like for a sex worker,” she said.

“Our phones are flooded with people saying they have been offered flats, and they have to take them because they have no other option.

“We talk to workers daily who when they show up to those places and the door isn’t even locked, the so-called landlord comes over because he wants free sex from the worker, to rape the worker.

“It’s that much worse for everybody during a housing crisis and sex workers are already at the bottom of the pile.

“People who work for Google can’t even find a house.

“Sex workers can sometimes have chaotic lives as it is, some might not speak English as a first language, these ads are not what they say they are, it’s putting people in a dangerous position.

“One girl had a landlord tell her that his wife was uncomfortable that I rented their flat and I had to go — even though she didn’t work from the premises, he thought she must dwell in circles of criminality.”

The RTB Rent Index reports the national average rent was €1,122 per month in December.

Dublin remains the most expensive place to rent with average monthly prices now at €1,620.

SWAI said there has been an increase in the numbers of women and men contacting them for help and advice.

They said the increase in crime against sex workers is directly linked to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 which came into force last year.

The act makes the purchase of sex illegal, while decriminalising the sale of sex, known as the “Nordic model”.

Supporters of the Nordic model say it reduces the demand that drives sex trafficking, however many sex worker organisations disagree.

UglyMugs.ie, a database which records crime against sex workers, says those in the Republic of Ireland have reported 54 per cent more crime in the year Mar 27th 2017 — March 26th 2018 (compared to the previous year).

Violent crime specifically is up 77 per cent.

Further safety concerns have been sparked against brothel keeping provisions in the law.

Sex workers cannot live and work together as this is seen by the law as a brothel, meaning women and men are forced to work alone.

“The data is there for anyone who wants to see it, there are people murdered because of bad laws,” Ms McGrew said.

“We’re telling people what we need to stay safe and they’re ignoring us.”

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 is up for review in March 2019 and SWAI said they will be campaigning on a change in the provisions for brothel keeping laws.–PA