Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) welcomes Amnesty Ireland’s submission to the Department of Justice and Equality calling on the Minister for Justice and Equality to remove Section 20 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015. Section 20 proposes to criminalise the purchase of sexual services in Ireland.
Amnesty’s submission outlines the serious human rights implications of criminalising the buying of sexual services between consenting adults. Crucially it highlights the increased risk of abuse and violence towards sex workers and the potential for crimes against sex workers to go unreported. It also points to evidence which shows how this approach can lead to unsafe sex practices and increase the spread of HIV and STDs.
Kate McGrew, Co-Ordinator SWAI stated, ‘Criminalising sex work does not make it safer. As Amnesty Ireland has so clearly outlined in its submission, it is only with full decriminalisation that the human rights of sex workers can be protected. There is no evidence criminalisation lowers the number of people engaged in sex work or reduces the number of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. In fact there is mounting evidence that criminalisation makes things far more dangerous and difficult for workers.
McGrew went onto say ‘Again we ask the Government to withdraw Section 20 in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill which proposes criminalising the purchase of sex. What we urgently need is independent research into sex workers’ experience before introducing legislation that will have a devastating impact on the lives of those it actually intends to protect’.
The Amnesty Ireland document also outlines the impact existing laws around sex work have on the rights of sex workers, in particular with regards to ‘brothel keeping’. This currently criminalises any worker who works with another person in an apartment or house for safety.
Catriona O’Brien, Sex Worker said, ‘Brothel Keeping laws in Ireland already criminalise sex workers and push us to work in more vulnerable and precarious situations. Section 20 will make this even worse. If the Gardaí start arresting buyers, we will be forced to work in more hidden and isolated places to avoid the Gardaí and risk losing our livelihoods’.