Today Wednesday 23rd September the Irish Government published the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill which includes section 20 to criminalise the purchase of sexual services. This proposed legislation has systematically failed to take the views of international experts, extensive research and sex workers views into consideration.
Speaking from a European meeting of sex workers in Portugal, Sex Worker and ICRSE board member Kate McGrew said, “If section 20 of the bill is not removed it will have devastating effects on the lives of vulnerable people. It will impact on health and safely and increasing the risk of violence. It is a step backwards.
She went onto say “This bill is intended to protect women. If passed however it will do the opposite and force us to work in more dangerous and hidden places away from Gardaí protection or support services. If the State truly wanted to protect us why does it not decriminalise me or people who sell sexual services? Section 20 of the bill actually reinforces vulnerability and particularly the vulnerability of street workers. This section is nothing short of tokenism which will actually make things worse’.
In August Amnesty International joined a host of international human rights, anti-trafficking and health organisation including the WHO, UN Aids, the Lancet medical journal, La Strada International, GAATW and Human Rights Watch to oppose the criminalisation of either the seller or buyer of sexual services.
Sex Worker, Catriona O’Brien said, ‘inconceivably in the State continues to ignore people like me who actually sell sexual services. We know what we need. We need to be able to live and work free from fear and violence. We need to be able to report crime when we are victims and we need to be able to work with the Gardaí to help stamp out exploitation and trafficking. Section 20 will make this impossible for us”.
Catriona concluded “It is time for the political establishment to listen to us. We don’t want section 20. There is still time to do the right thing and remove it. “