Sex workers and the law
Sir, – This week marks the two-year anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 2017, which criminalised the purchase of sex and doubled penalties for sex workers working in pairs or groups. Its effects have been disastrous. In the past two years sex workers have experienced an increase in violent attacks, rising precariousness, and a deepening lack of trust in An Garda Síochána. This law has created a criminal environment, one in which sex workers have faced a 92 per cent increase in violent attacks, while showing a near 20 per cent decrease in likelihood to report crime. The law has worsened sex workers’ historically contentious relationship with the Garda.
The law has given more power to clients and created a “buyers’ market” as, for example, clients now insist that sex workers travel to them, as they are afraid of being arrested visiting an escort. The law offers no funds or supports for viable job alternatives or towards the specific issues, including poverty, drug misuse, and domestic violence that lead to people in desperate situations being exploited or coerced in the industry.
Current sex workers need to be centred in all discussions about the impact of this law as they are experiencing its effects day after day. The forthcoming review of the legislation should decriminalise sex work as the only effective way to ensure the safety and welfare of sex workers in Ireland. – Yours, etc,