We are highlighting the laws surrounding sex work in Ireland as discriminatory laws today on the UNAIDS Zero Discrimination Day. This year UNAIDS are using Zero Discrimination day to draw attention to the many laws which create barriers to health and safety, as well as many other human rights breaches.
Kate McGrew, director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says “We all deserve to have health and safety but laws which police sexual expression, including transactional sex between consenting adults, lead to already marginalised people being pushed further into the margins. When sex workers, who in Ireland are mostly migrants, cannot work together in safety they take greater risks, such as shorter negotiations or lack of use of condoms. Stigma and shame lead to sex workers not attending services such as rape crisis centres or seeking justice if they have been a victim of a crime.”
She continues “In 5 countries in the world the possession of condoms is “proof” that a person is engaged in sex work. In Ireland we hear from workers that Gardai routinely take condoms as evidence of sex work as well as any money made, during a brothel raid, even when they do not make any arrests and only tell the women to move on. This leaves the workers with no money to travel and with no safe way to make money to do so. Sex workers, and trans workers in particular, are at high risk for HIV and any law that makes them less likely to practice safe sex or get tested has a detrimental effect on an already vulnerable population.
Misguided politicians have been led ot believe that our laws save sex workers, but instead they put them in harms way. SWAI is the only sex workers rights group in Ireland that puts sex workers at the centre of their policy. We join many other sex workers rights groups in calling for full decriminalisation of sex work, including clients, so that workers can have healthy and safe lives free from stigma”