International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers closes out a brutal and deadly year for sex workers in Ireland. 

Supporters of the Nordic model have Blood on their hands on a banner

Mardi Kennedy, coordinator of the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says “This year has been devastating for Irish sex workers, marked by a murder in Limerick, raids disguised as welfare checks and an ongoing campaign of harassment targeting sex workers, including phishing scams and threats of violence. The Nordic Model of client criminalisation, supported by the government, contributes to increased violence against sex workers. We call for decriminalisation of sex work as a crucial step towards ensuring the safety of sex workers.”

She continues “The tragic murder of Geila Ibram, a sex worker in Limerick, underscores the consequences of laws disregarding sex workers’ voices and safety. We reiterate that warnings from sex workers and allies during the 2015-2016 Nordic Model debates have been validated by extensive research and lived experiences worldwide. And now the danger the state was warned about has come to pass. How the government chooses to continuously ignore sex workers and research is both unfathomable and confusing”.

Linda Kavanagh, spokesperson for SWAI says “Client criminalisation and so-called brothel-keeping laws have led to adverse effects on negotiation dynamics, prioritisation of the safety and well-being of the client rather than the sex worker themselves, and the industry being pushed underground, forcing risk-taking behaviours. The 2017 law escalated fines and introduced jail sentences for brothel keeping, making legal and safe work incompatible. The criminalisation of consenting adults has failed to curb exploitation and trafficking in Ireland and disregards sex workers’ calls for decriminalisation.”

She continues “In October SWAI reported on an ongoing campaign of harassment targeting sex workers, including phishing scams and threats of violence. This highlights the need to address violence against sex workers, which goes unnoticed and unreported. Less than 1% of sex workers report crimes against them to the Gardaí, compared to 81% of the general population who have trust in Gardaí.

This lack of trust in the police is caused by all-island brothel raids disguised as welfare checks, which conveniently happen around the 16 Days to End Gender-based Violence each year. The Gardaí, disguising themselves as clients, shamelessly deceive sex workers to gain access to them. These intrusive checks, coupled with their mass texts, have inflicted terror upon sex workers. It’s infuriating that this is the chosen method to combat trafficking and exploitation in the sex industry. It does nothing to end exploitation in the sex industry.”

“We also learned of another setback in the overdue review of sex work laws, with the independent reviewer stepping back. We condemn the lack of transparency and engagement with stakeholders and demand a restart of the review due to concerns about outdated data and the loss of direct engagement with sex workers. We have since learned that the reviewer stepped back due to the lack of faith the Department of Justice had in her and her methods. 

The extended delay raises questions about the government’s commitment to addressing the issues faced by sex workers. We reiterate the importance of a thorough and transparent review process that genuinely considers the impact on sex workers’ lives. How can we trust this process when it has been a disaster from the beginning?

SWAI demands immediate action to address the urgent concerns facing sex workers in Ireland. We urge the government to prioritise the safety, well-being, and rights of sex workers, acknowledging their invaluable role in shaping policies that impact their lives.”

The tide has decisively turned against sex workers in Ireland, trampling their rights and safety. These are real people, coerced into solitary work for legality, only to be shunned by rape and assault services and denied mental health aid, branding their economic activity as self-harm.

In this hostile landscape of criminalisation, shame and stigma, threats and harassment loom large. The violence isn’t from clients but from men emboldened by the law’s dehumanising rhetoric. As the 16 Days to End Gender-Based Violence comes to an end, will the focus be on exposing the grim reality of harassment, stalking, and threats faced by sex workers, or will misguided support for laws perpetuating this violence persist?

In the face of murder, assault, robbery, and deceit at the hands of Gardaí, what does it take for their voices to be heard?”

(ahead of International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers)

6TH DEC 2023 | 4pm – 7pm | A4 SOUNDS GALLERY

Ahead of International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland are holding a banner-making and screenprinting event in A4 Sounds.

This year we are organising this event to encourage sex workers to harness community outrage through the power of creative expression in a supported environment, with the theme inspired by Laura Lee’s statement ‘Supporters of the Nordic Model have blood on their hands’.

From 3pm feel free to drop in and be guided through the screen printing process by our amazing facilitator Leea Berry. There will be two designs to choose from. Donations will be collected on the day per print. We will have some t-shirts and tote bags available to purchase on the day but we advise you to bring your own. All funds raised will go towards SWAI’s voucher fund.

We will have banner-making in the gallery where we encourage sex workers and allies to express their anger at the current laws in Ireland. We will provide markers, fabric and inspiration for anyone who wishes to participate. This is open to sex workers and allies.

There will be a Raffle at 7:00pm, with some saucy prizes. Afterwards, we will have performers in the gallery including poetry and music.

This event takes place indoors and is masked. FFP2 masks will be available at the door.



Print your own Tee from 2 amazing designs available on the day!

No experience needed! You’ll be guided through the screen printing process by our amazing facilitator Leea Berry.

Feel free to drop in anytime but do allow at least 30 mins per print.



We will be making a banner that says “Supporters of the Nordic Model have blood on their hands” and asking people to express their feelings about the current laws in Ireland that force sex workers to work on their own to work legally. 

We will provide markers, fabric and inspiration for anyone who wishes to participate. This is open to sex workers and allies.

Nicole image

Poetry by: Nicole Gavagan is a Portuguese-Irish artist known for her work in poetry and performance. Her work is written with deliberate intent to be provocative and to shed light on social and economic issues.Instagram:

Claire image

Music by: Claire Bear. Your dad’s favourite homeless transexual escort and noise musician.


Read more about accessibility, how to get to A4 Sounds and tips on what to bring for screen printing here:

If you can’t make it on Wednesday but would still like to donate to our voucher fund you can donate through our Paypal here:

“Today is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and since we marked this day last year there has been a notable shift in attitudes against sex workers in Ireland,” says Mardi Kennedy, coordinator of the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI). 

“The tide is turning against sex workers, and it is alarming to see”, Mardi continues. “This year the Department of Justice funded‘ I Must Be Some Person’ research highlighted that 1 in 5 street sex workers in Ireland has been sexually assaulted by Gardaí. This research was unique in giving voice to street sex workers who have been silenced in the dominant narrative around sex work in Ireland.”

Linda Kavanagh, comms manager for SWAI added “We have also recently learned of a sex worker who had their earnings seized at Belfast airport. Selling sex is supposed to be legal on the island of Ireland and yet this worker had her name published online and her earnings stolen by the police. Under what law have her earnings been seized?” 

“All-island brothel raids were conducted in November with no mention of the well-being of the sex workers involved. Gardaí have posed as clients and lied to sex workers to get access to them to conduct so-called welfare checks. The Gardaí have then taken the names of the landlords of these premises. These checks, accompanied by mass texts, have terrorised sex workers and we have been contacted by many sex workers who are concerned by these actions. This is not how to go about combatting trafficking and exploitation in the sex industry.”

“Violence against sex workers comes in many forms, not just from clients. Police, the government, healthcare professionals, landlords, and society at large are all vectors of violence against sex workers. We know this because SWAI listens to sex workers themselves. Trust in the Gardaí amongst the rest of the population is at 90% according to the Gardaí’s own research. If we compare that to the Ugly Mugs stats, the only stats of crimes against sex workers that are collected, we see that less than 1% of sex workers report crimes against them to Gardaí.”

“In the past year we have learned that victims of trafficking who were prosecuted for brothel-keeping will not have their convictions wiped. There is a huge problem in Ireland with trafficked people getting recognised as such, while it suits many to conflate all sex work with trafficking. Just look at the number of traffickers prosecuted and how Ireland has been admonished numerous times for our lack of convictions” says Leah Butler.  

She continues “On a more positive note, this year the review of the law continued and we eagerly await the outcome of this report. This review MUST centre on the experiences of current sex workers and how the Nordic model of client criminalisation has made sex workers more vulnerable to violence, including violence from the state.” 

Here at SWAI we have hired a new coordinator and have a new board, made up of sex workers and allies. We have resumed our monthly coffee meet-ups, and online meet-ups to bolster the diverse community of sex workers in Ireland. We have sent vouchers to sex workers who are struggling with the cost of living crisis because we know that sex workers need more than rhetoric to survive. 

This International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers we demand that sex workers are listened to when we call for the decriminalisation of sex work. The cost of living crisis, on top of the years-long housing crisis, means more people turn to sex work to make ends meet. The Irish government is pushing people into sex work but simultaneously ensures they are less safe once they are. 

Today is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers and we want to highlight how, through government policies, the state pushes people into sex work.Years of austerity, the housing crisis, lack of supports for people using drugs, Direct Provision, limits to how many hours international students can work, lack of decent employment, lack of affordable childcare and precarious work are all contributing factors as to why people enter sex work.

Aoife Bloom, board member of SWAI said “Once people have entered sex work the current law in place ensures they are not safe. Client criminalisation was introduced in 2017 along with increases in the penalties and a potential jail sentence for working together for safety. This means that to work legally sex workers must work alone. Almost all sex workers we speak to would like the option of sharing a premises for safety. Most of the people who have been arrested for so-called brothel-keeping have been young, migrant sex workers.” 

She continues “Client criminalisation was introduced with great fanfare with the supposed aim of ending the demand for sex work and thereby ending trafficking in Ireland. It has utterly failed to achieve that goal. Focusing on the criminalisation of the clients of sex workers has done nothing to address the real root causes of human trafficking. Since we marked this day last year Ireland has languished at almost the bottom of the Trafficking in Persons report. Since last year trans people, especially trans sex workers of colour, are being murdered in record numbers globally. Since last year the violence which increased by 92% after the introduction of the law has not abated. Trans sex workers were the targets for the initial spate of violence that occurred here. 

Client criminalisation has not ended sex work in Ireland but it has given the client the upper hand in the negotiating process. A sex worker has to ensure the client feels safe as the client is the one taking the risk. The legal pressure that clients face is absorbed by sex workers. This means shorter negotiation times, more risk-taking such as not using a condom, less screening and taking on clients you would normally refuse to make up for lost income. The reality is sex work is still partially if not fully criminalised in Ireland. When you decriminalise the act of selling sex yet make all the conditions for selling sex illegal, it is just ideology. 

Recently a spate of so-called welfare checks by Gardaí have terrorised sex workers and even resulted in evictions. In the middle of winter, during an increase in the numbers of people contracting COVID, at the height of the housing crisis sex workers are being forced out of their homes by their landlords who cannot rent to them for fear of prosecution. This is the direct result of the law passed in 2017 which was supposed to end exploitation. Both the Gardaí and landlords are obliged to follow the law. The reality is that the Gardaí can’t help people that they are criminalising.”

“We are already degraded, objectified and mistreated by so many abusers and sometimes by the general public, we do not need to be treated in the same manner by the government or by officers of the law.”

– Naomi, active sex worker in Ireland  

Aoife says “Criminalising the purchase of sex has done nothing to remove the reasons why women sell sex in the first place, and neither did lockdown. No supports were put in place when this law was introduced. Sex work is an economic activity and sex workers need rights like all other workers. The first step is to decriminalise sex work so that the health and safety of sex workers can be prioritised.”

“I want it to be safe for everyone. It’s all about our safety.”

– Beth, current outdoor worker

#DecrimforSafety #SupportSafeSexWork

Images from vigil 2019December 17th marks International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

Kate McGrew, director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says “This year the review of the sex work laws has begun and we worked to ensure that sex worker’s voices were heard in the policy decisions that govern our lives. These laws have kept us isolated by ensuring we work alone or forcing us to break the law when we work together with another worker for safety. Poverty is brutal and taking away our options does nothing to increase our safety. These laws have increased violence against us and only by fully decriminalising sex work will we begin to remedy that and centre the safety of sex workers.”

She continues “The End Demand laws were purported to end trafficking but Ireland has moved down to the Tier 2 Watchlist in the US Trafficking in Persons Report this year. 

This year so-called brothel workers remain imprisoned. In Limerick, co-workers were attacked precisely because they were working together for safety and they had no legal recourse that would not result in them also being arrested. We have seen more migrant workers sentenced around the country. Our sex work and so-called brothel-keeping laws continue to be applied in a racist way.

This year has been devastating for all marginalised people including sex workers. Because of the quasi-legal nature of our work, most sex workers did not qualify for PUP and were left behind. Our organisation was also refused funding and admission to government committees for vulnerable people because we recognise that sex work is an economic activity. 

Almost half of sex workers in Ireland were unable to give up work during the pandemic and even now most have returned to work. It is simply unfeasible to expect people not to work for 9 months of the year, even if your job is intimate work. Demand for sex work was severely reduced this year and yet there were little to no supports for sex workers. Laws that are based on ideology instead of worker safety are state-supported violence against us. 

Gardaí also used COVID laws to move on and detain workers and they continue to misrepresent the law. Street sex work is decriminalised in Ireland yet street workers have been pulled off the street and photographed in Garda stations so that the Gardaí can more easily identify them if they are murdered. They are then released back onto the street hours later with their whole night’s work ruined. This forces street workers to take on work they would normally turn down because the need for money is more important than the fear for their own safety. 

As we face into a recession we know more and more people will turn to sex work, as they did in 2008, to make ends meet. Our laws should ensure safety for these new workers, not put them in more danger as they have since 2017.

In the last few weeks, the sex worker community has been devasted by blow after blow. Scotland is currently consulting on introducing the Nordic Model and the UK passed its first reading on legislation to introduce End Demand laws there too. These laws are being introduced for moral reasons with no evidence that they work. Sex workers are being ignored again about the reality of lives and our safety. Sex workers continue to have their income curbed as various platforms such and Instagram and Facebook have banned us and many financial platforms such as Paypal, Visa and Mastercard do not allow us on them. During a global pandemic, we need to be able to access cash. SWAI struggled with this issue when giving our hardship funds. 

However, as always the sex work community takes care of our own because no one else will. We created a hardship fund which gave small grants to over 170 sex workers during the first lockdown. We also created a number of harm reduction guidelines for those who could not give up work. 

The Sex Workers Alliance Ireland also received our first Irish funding, a milestone for us and an acknowledgement that affected led advocacy is key. Despite the constant cruel stigma, laws that have made us less safe and a society that wishes we weren’t there we are resilient and we deserve to be heard.”

#DecrimforSafety #SupportSafeSexWork

End Violence Against Sex Workers

While new report shows that Sex Workers working even in partially criminalised settings face three times the amount of violence, it remains completely illegal for two workers to work together for safety in Ireland.

Today is International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Sex Workers. In a year of difficult conversations which challenged the status quo and led to real gains for women and people who can get pregnant in Ireland, we must continue to push further to ensure bodily autonomy and the safety of everyone, including sex workers.  

Kate McGrew, director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says “Penalties for workers working in pairs or groups doubled was a change in law that happened quietly, but it is an extremely dangerous piece of legislation. The Nordic model purportedly is meant to target the client but by this law, but if we want to work legally here we are forced to work alone. Violent attacks specifically increased on us 77% in the first year of the law being introduced. This is not a coincidence.” 

She continues “We talk to worker after worker whose safety and income has become increasingly precarious. Many are forced to seek assistance for housing by criminals who prey upon our vulnerability. In a time of housing crisis we are exploited by landlords who take advantage of our brothel keeping laws to extract enormous sums for use of their property. 

Trans sex workers of colour are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Sex work is one of the few avenues of income open to trans people. While we have quite progressive law on gender recognition in Ireland employment opportunities are rare. Until proper supports are put in place for everyone people will still continue to see sex work as their opportunity for independence and income. 

The officers who arrest us are the ones we are to report to if we are assaulted. For sex workers the police are vectors of violence, not of safety or harm reduction. Many migrant sex workers, already on the margins of society, are offered the choice of leaving the country or face prosecution and possibly deportation. When anti-sex work organisations speak about all sex work being violence, including the consensual transactions, what recourse do we have when we are actually assaulted?

We see reports published that back up what we have known anecdotally for years; that when any aspect of sex work is criminalised, including the purchase of sex, violence against sex workers is normalised. We want sex work decriminalised so that we are no longer pushed to the margins. How long can some feminist organisations, the government and the health department ignore the growing body of evidence that shows that their policies are damaging our health?”