Anniversary of Geila Ibram’s Murder Highlights Continued Neglect of Sex Workers’ Safety by Irish Government

As we approach the first anniversary of the tragic murder of Geila Ibram, a sex worker in Limerick, the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) berates the Gardaí for continued lack of contact, while violent offenders prey on this community.

Linda Kavanagh, spokesperson for SWAI said “We recently learned through the media that another predator is preying on sex workers in Ireland. We have had no contact with the Gardaí about this, despite our attempts to open up lines of communication recently. We can confirm that Ugly Mugs, a safety app used by sex workers, was also not warned. Outdoor workers, such as street workers, are sitting ducks while the Gardaí refuse to use what little safety networks sex workers have to keep them safe. Gardaí pose as clients and lie to sex workers to get access to them, under the guise of so-called welfare checks, but refuse to warn them of dangerous attackers operating in the area. No wonder 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.

Mardi Kennedy, Coordinator of SWAI condemns the Irish government’s continued neglect of sex workers’ safety and well-being. “Geila’s murder stands as a grim reminder of the dangers faced by sex workers under the Nordic Model of client criminalisation, which prioritises ideology over evidence and endangers the lives of those it claims to protect.

Despite repeated warnings from sex workers and allies during the debates surrounding the introduction of the Nordic Model in 2015-2016, the government has failed to acknowledge the real consequences of this legislation. The Nordic Model, implemented in 2017, has only exacerbated violence against sex workers, as evidenced by Geila Ibram’s tragic death and the ongoing harassment, threats, and violence faced by sex workers across Ireland.”

SWAI demands immediate action from the government to address the urgent concerns facing sex workers in Ireland. Ministerial refusal to engage with SWAI and other stakeholders, coupled with the farcical review process of sex work laws conducted by the Department of Justice, reflects a blatant disregard for the voices and safety of sex workers. The delay, lack of transparency, and failure to include active sex workers in the review process raise serious questions about the government’s commitment to understanding the impact of these laws. 

Mardi continues “In areas where reform is needed, the government has a strong track record of bringing in independent experts, and these experts have produced groundbreaking and change-making reports. As a matter of principle and in the pursuit of good governance, we demand that the Department of Justice reverse its decision to finalise the sex work law review in-house. It sets an alarming precedent that will have disturbing effects for many other marginalised groups.” 

Linda added “The government’s refusal to listen to sex workers and its prioritisation of ideology over evidence and research is both unfathomable and dangerous. Geila Ibram’s murder should have been a wake-up call, but instead, it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. How many more sex workers must suffer or die before the government takes meaningful action and decriminalises sex work?”

In addition to the ongoing threats and violence faced by sex workers, the criminalisation of sex work exacerbates mental health challenges, housing insecurity, financial precarity, and isolation within the sex worker community. SWAI calls for the decriminalisation of sex work as a crucial step towards ensuring the safety, rights, and dignity of sex workers in Ireland.

As we mark the anniversary of Geila Ibram, SWAI urges the Irish government to prioritise the safety, well-being, and rights of sex workers by ending the harmful criminalisation of sex work and engaging meaningfully with sex workers in policy decisions that impact their lives.

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?”

Megaphone saying Press relelase

This week a phishing scam from someone pretending to be a major advertising site contacted non-national sex workers who are currently advertising. Later in the week, these texts escalated into extreme threats of violence, including threats of murder. 

Separately a man with an Irish accent has been calling sex workers, harassing them with threats of violence.  All of this is part of an ongoing, sustained campaign of harassment with serious time and resources being put into it. 

Mardi Kennedy, coordinator of the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says “We are highlighting these events to warn sex workers about the phishing calls but also to highlight the type of violence against sex workers, who are mostly women, that goes unnoticed, unreported and not talked about.”

She continued “We also wanted to bring attention to the campaign of harassment that has been levelled against Ugly Mugs, the app sex workers use to keep themselves safe. 

Due to online harassment, the person running the Ugly Mugs social media has been forced to take down their social media accounts. Ugly Mugs does not have an advertising budget and relies on word of mouth and social media to direct sex workers to this essential service. The police are powerless to address the violent threats that have been made to the person running the account and social media companies are indifferent.” 

Linda Kavanagh, spokesperson for SWAI said “There have been countless complaints to 3rd parties about Ugly Mugs from somebody or some people over the past several months. This app is one of the few safety nets sex workers have. If this app disappears, sex workers will die. It is as simple as that. 

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. How does this statistic not concern the Minister for Justice? How does it not concern those who campaign against gender-based violence?”

Linda continued “Sex workers are real people, who are forced to work alone to work legally. They are rejected from rape and sexual assault services because of their job. They are refused treatment by mental health professionals because the economic activity they perform is framed as acts of self-harm. Gardaí pose as clients and lied to sex workers to get access to them, under the guise of so-called welfare checks.

Threats and harassment are inevitable in the current environment of criminalisation and stigma. This violence is not from clients but from men who feel empowered by the law and the dehumanising language around sex workers. During the 16 Days to End Gender-Based Violence next month will we see a focus on the reality of harassment, stalking and threats to sex workers, or will we see more misguided support for laws and stigma that creates the environment for this violence?”

Press release in speech bubble

Risk of eviction, mass surveillance and threats to our livelihood are just some of the issues that sex workers have faced just days into the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. 

“We have been inundated with calls and messages from sex workers who have received texts from the Gardaí. These texts have terrorised a population that is already fearful of interaction with the Gardaí” says Linda Kavanagh from the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI).

“This week there have been reports of so-called welfare checks by Gardaí on sex workers, where Gardaí have posed as clients and lied to sex workers to get access to them. The Gardaí have then taken the names of the landlords of these premises. Brothel raids have been conducted both north and south of the border and there have been trafficking arrests. However, there is no mention of the welfare of the sex workers who worked there. This is not how to go about combatting trafficking and exploitation in the sex industry.” 

“Ireland must recognise that, for sex workers, Gardaí can be a vector of violence. The “I Must Be Some Person” research, published in August of this year highlighted that one in five street sex workers interviewed had experienced being sexually exploited by the Gardaí. Trust in the Garda 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.”  

“The 2017 law is failing on its own terms. It has pushed sex work underground, away from Gardaí and services that can help. The law does nothing to improve the situation of a population who are already on the margins of society.  In order to improve relationships with Gardaí, we must decriminalise sex work so that sex workers can feel safe reporting crimes against them. Sex workers deserve to be safe and they deserve laws that uphold their safety.”

This Trans Day of Remembrance LGBTQI+ organisations must stand with the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland (SWAI) when we call for the full decriminalisation of sex work. Any alternative is putting the health and safety of trans people at risk.

Trans Day of Remembrance

Aoife Bloom, board member of SWAI says “Today, on Trans Day of Remembrance 2021 we demand that society acknowledges how the majority of trans people who were killed in 2021 were trans sex workers. 

2021 is a record-breaking year for violence against trans people. 375 gender diverse people were murdered and the majority of those murdered were black and migrant. Over half of those murdered were sex workers. When we talk about transphobic violence and Trans Day of Remembrance we’re usually talking about trans sex workers of colour.”

She continues “Here in Ireland, trans sex workers are often the victims of the spate of violence that occurred directly after the law changed in 2017. Liam Vickers preyed on a vulnerable trans woman and was enabled by our recently changed laws. The change in law created an environment wherein our vulnerability was highlighted in the media, without providing any new protections for us whatsoever. The law increased criminalisation of people co-working, under “brothel-keeping” legislation, distancing us from authorities, and also forcing us to work alone if we were trying to work within legal parameters. Since the law changed in 2017 we have seen a 92% increase in violent crimes against us. 

Recent research by the European Sex Worker Alliance (ESWA) highlights that 83% of sex workers surveys felt that transphobia had a detrimental effect on their mental health. Trans people are over represented in the sex work community because they are marginsalised and unable to find other work. Sex work is an economic activity, after all.

Our current model of client criminalisation does not respond to the circumstances of deep poverty, domestic violence, homelessness, precarity and drug use that may lead to people selling sex. Sex workers exist on the sharp end of misogyny, racism, transphobia and other forms of marginalisation. Sex workers must work alone to work legally which increases our vulnerability.

How long more can government, health authorities, and gender equality bodies here ignore the growing body of evidence that shows that their policies are damaging and endangering to the physical and mental health of this precarious group of people?

SWAI demands that organisations that claim to support trans people start to advocate and agitate for the full decriminalisation of sex work. Decriminalisation is essential for combating trans marginalisation and HIV rates, building trust with marginalised communities and providing access to sexual health supports. You cannot be pro LGBT rights without being pro-sex worker rights.” 

We deserve to be safe imageBoth sex workers and Gardaí have known about these criminals for some time but sex workers refuse to contact the Garda because trust in Gardaí is at an all-time low since the law changed in 2017. 

“The increased assaults and robberies on sex workers currently being investigated by gardaí are a direct consequence of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, which specifically prohibits sex workers from working or even living together for safety,  so-called brothel-keeping, and makes the consensual purchase of sex a criminal offence” says Kate McGrew, current sex worker and Director of Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland said today.

Commenting on the announcement that gardaí are investigating a systematic series of physical assaults and robbery of sex workers, she said “The 2017 law, which is due for review in early 2020, should be scrapped. It should be replaced by legislation that decriminalises sex work and to provide labour law, health and safety guarantees instead.”

Under the 2017 legislation, sex workers have faced ever greater physical threats due to increased stigma and isolation. This has directly facilitated the type of attacks now being investigated by Gardaí because criminals can realistically assume that sex workers will be alone and defenceless if attacked. If they are working together for safety the criminals know the worker is unlikely to call the Gardaí because they fear being prosecuted for so-called brothel-keeping. These fears are not unfounded since two migrant workers working together for safety were jailed during the summer this year. 

“The fact that these attacks are being carried out by gangs of people means that sex workers lives are now at risk from criminals gangs. The negative impact of the law is vividly shown by the fact that gardaí have had to issue the ludicrous assurance that sex workers who have been violently assaulted and robbed will be treated with the ‘utmost sensitivity and confidentiality.’ Such a statement would never need to be issued for any other worker or person subject to violent attacked and theft,” Kate McGrew said.

“Asking sex workers to only see known clients to them shows the disconnect that the Gardaí have from the lived experiences of sex workers. A worker needs to pay rent, pay bills and feed themselves, just like everyone else and is not in a position to turn away clients. Many sex workers are single mothers and on the run up to Christmas, they cannot afford to follow this advice.”

Through our safety networks, SWAI and sex workers have known about these criminals for some time but workers refuse to contact the Garda because, at best, they fear surveillance of their workplace or clients and their livelihood taken away. 

“The law is placing the gardaí in an impossible position. If they encounter a sex worker living alone it is ‘legal’, but if contacted by sex workers living together for safety they must prosecute them as criminals,” she said.

Declan Daly, Detective Chief Superintendent from the Garda National Protective Services Bureau said on Morning Ireland that this is a vulnerable population but the law is what is making the workers vulnerable. 

It doesn’t have to be like this. In New Zealand sex work is decriminalised. Sex workers can take legal action for assault or exploitation, without being ‘shamed’ for their profession. A similar approach should apply in Ireland.

We all deserve to be safe and we all should have laws that work to make us safer. Sex workers deserve this too. The egregious waste of Gardaí resources used to prosecute consensual sex work and workers working together for safety could be better used in prosecuting criminals such as these. We have worked previously with Gardaí to successfully prosecute serial rapists in the past.

We need assurances from the Gardaí that if workers who have been working together for safety are attacked they will not be prosecuted under brothel-keeping laws. We need removal of brothel-keeping laws that mean that workers can work together safety. We need to be included in the review of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 and we need sex work fully decriminalised.”

#DecrimforSafety #SupportSafeSexWork

A major surge in harassment of sex workers following the introduction of the so-called ‘Swedish Model’ in Northern Ireland was among the main findings in a review of the impact of the legislation, Dr Caoimhe Ní Dhónaill, co-author of a report commissioned for the Northern Ireland Department of Justice said at a meeting in Dublin tonight (Sunday, October 6th).

The meeting was organised by Kate McGrew and the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland as one of the first in a series of six events related to a similar review in the Republic of Ireland.

Caoimhe Ní Dhonaíll, a Queens University Belfast based academic, said that the report, the first in any country to compare data both before and after introduction of the ‘Nordic model’, says there appears to have been no impact on the number of sex workers, while support services remain paltry.

“While levels of serious and violent crime appear to have remained static, responses from sex workers indicate that almost three quarters (73%) reported ‘abusive or threatening phonecalls’ in the past year, while half reported abusive or threatening behaviour. This compares with only one in eight reporting similar abuse in the previous five years.

“These findings are almost identical to those from Uglymugs, an organisation documenting sex worker health and safety, that between 2016 and 2018 self-reported assault increased by 225%, while ‘other sexual assault’ increased by 300%. This includes threatening to call landlord/police, threatening to damage the sex worker’s reputation and unauthorised photography as well as seeking free sex.

The report, ‘A Review of the Criminalisation of paying for Sexual Services in Northern Ireland,’ was published in September by the Northern Ireland Department of Justice. It showed only 11% of clients stated an intention to stop purchasing sex.

“Evidence from the Médecins du Monde study of similar French legislation introduced in 2016 suggests it has no effect on abusive or violent clients, rather it is those who are non-abusive and non-violent who seem to be dissuaded. We, therefore, may simply be placing sex workers in more danger by imposing the Nordic model.

“Commercial sex now seems much riskier and more underground than before the Nordic model. A law claiming to tackle violence against women appears to instead facilitate an unsafe work environment.

“Worrying evidence also emerged that it is mainly sex workers themselves rather than statutory agencies who provide help and assistance in the area. “Only a minority of sex workers in the Northern Ireland survey accessed of Women’s Aid or Ruhama. Considerably more engaged with and Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland (SWAI), both based outside the jurisdiction.

“Neither does the law seems to have impacted on numbers entering sex work. 35 people started selling sex after the legislation was implemented in June 2015 which represents 21.6% of those that responded to this particular question. An estimated 308 sex workers are advertising across Northern Ireland on a daily basis, showing no reduction from figures cited in official research in 2014.

It also appears that many people dip in and out of sex work as need and circumstance dictate. For example, 39.4% of respondents had left for periods of up to six months but then returned,” Caoimhe Ní Dhónail said.

“The government here should instigate similar detailed research as part of the review of legislation in the Republic of Ireland,” Kate McGrew, Director, Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, said in response.

“Legislation here follows the same Swedish Model approach that is clearly shown in Northern Ireland to be grossly defective. SWAI is increasingly aware of safety and health concerns affecting sex workers, particularly those working alone. The government must not continue to turn a blind eye to the facts,” she said.

“The national coordination body for police services in the UK, The National Police Chiefs Council, has advised UK police services not to equate all sex work with trafficking in its operational guidance issued in January 2019. It is time that the law here also clearly separates sex work that women undertake by their own decision from instances of trafficking and other abuses,” she said.

Kate McGrew, current sex worker and spokesperson for the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland(SWAI)  said “The criminalisation of client law was brought in with great fanfare over 2 years ago but, as yet, has only seen two men prosecuted for the purchase of sex in Ireland. It is unclear at this time that any of the 38 people questioned will be prosecuted.”

She continues “In early 2020 there will be a review of the impact of the law so we are not surprised that there has been an increase in the questioning of those who seek the service of sex workers. But we know from figures gleaned from Ugly Mugs, an app sex workers use to keep ourselves safe, that over the past 2 years the laws have seen sex workers being deported, arrested or forced to leave the country to avoid prosecution for working together for safety. We also know that there has been a marked increase in violent crimes against sex workers here in Ireland, an increase of 92%. As far as we know everyone who has been prosecuted of so-call brothel-keeping in Ireland has been a migrant.  All of this begs the question, who is truly being affected by the law, who are the vulnerable persons the Garda say they are protecting and who are we trying to keep safe?

With closures of Gardaí stations around the country we know that the Gardaí’s resources would be better served investigating other crimes. We’ve seen from the report released last week, commissioned by the Department of Justice Northern Ireland that the law does not reduce demand or, indeed, trafficking

We don’t know anything about the workers who were caught up in these actions. We don’t know if they were consenting workers or part of the minority of those who have been trafficked into Ireland for sex work. These actions have not addressed the root causes of sex work, such as austerity, poverty, lack of childcare. These actions have not provided the supports on exiting sex work, should people want to exit, which were promised with the introduction of the law. 

This year we have seen the results of sex workers working with Gardaí which led to the conviction of a serial rapist of sex workers. But we are afraid that actions such as those reported on today will result in a decrease in trust in the Gardaí. We know that less than 1% of crimes committed against sex workers are reported to the Gardaí. We would like to see Garda efforts focus on actually helping sex workers when they are the victims of a crime, instead of meddling with their means of survival.”

SWAI is the only front-line, sex worker-led organisation in Ireland and we want to see sex work fully decriminalised. These laws make clients more fearful, which impacts the safety of sex workers. One of the many reasons we want sex work decriminalised is so that sex workers can work with the Gardaí to combat trafficking and exploitation in the industry. We only have to look at New Zealand and New South Wales in Australia to see how full decriminalisation has led to cooperation between workers and the police. If we truly want to combat trafficking the Gardaí should work with their best allies, sex workers, instead of targetting them and their livelihood. We ask that misinformed politicians listen to us, the very people who are materially affected by these laws. Who are these laws helping? Sex workers want to be safe, like everyone else. 

#DecrimforSafety #SupportSafeSexWork.

Decrim for SAfety

Kate McGrew, current sex worker and director of the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI), said “The Sex Workers Alliance are horrified to learn of the jailing of two sex workers at Naas District Court yesterday, one of whom is pregnant, less than one week after International Sex Workers Day. The facts of this case show the 2017 Sexual Offences Law is not fit for purpose. There were no clients present, very little money and no evidence of the workers being coerced in to their job.”

She continued “The change in law in 2017 was heralded as a law that would protect sex workers. But we at SWAI cannot understand how jailing two young migrant women will protect or rescue them in any way. Their crime, for working together for safety, is not a violent crime and there are no victims. 

“Prior to the change in law in 2017 the maximum sentence for so-called brothel keeping was 6 months. When misinformed politicians and policymakers speak about how the law has decriminalised workers they completely ignore that sex workers working together for safety risk increased penalties. We repeat: the Nordic Model does not decriminalise sex workers. This is not justice gone wrong, this is how the law was designed to work. 

“Even those who support the law cannot support the prosecution of two women under these laws. We in SWAI feel this is an egregious waste of Garda time and resources. These are two women working together, whose apartment was put under surveillance by the Gardai. 

“When we fought last year to repeal the 8th amendment we spoke of care and compassion for those who are pregnant. Are we really ready to stand over the jailing of a young pregnant migrant who was working together with another woman for safety? Is this the justice system we want for our country? We have a long and shameful past of institutionalising ‘fallen women’. The clear contempt in the way the judge spoke to and about these women is very reminiscent of our dark history of Magdalene laundries and Mother and Baby homes.  

“Sex workers want to be safe and we want to trust the state and its services in upholding our rights. But cases like this erode the already precarious trust that workers have in state services. Next year, there will be a three year review of the 2017 Sexual Offences Act. The Sex Workers Alliance will be calling for full decriminalisation of sex workers in the review.”

#DecrimforSafety #SupportSafeSexWork.

Gardaí should protect the most vulnerable. Instead our laws put marginalised people in danger and waste precious Garda resources.  

Kate McGrew, director of SWAI and currently working sex worker said “36 men have been questioned over purchase of sex in the past few days and, while this is a huge number this is still far less than the 55 workers who have been prosecuted for working together in safety*, so called brothel-keeping. Of these 36 men we don’t know how many, if any, will be prosecuted. All the while there has been a 92% increase in violent crime against sex workers since the 2017 laws came in. This is where Garda resources should be directed”

She continued “While we don’t know the details of the cases, the press release from the Gardaí reads like there was mass surveillance on workers. The outcome of this will mean that clients will not use their real names or phone numbers to evade detection. This puts workers at a very real risk as they will be less able to screen predators. They may also insist that workers come to them, taking the worker out of their security zone and into somewhere unknown. Sex workers are now forced to work in isolation, which puts them at further risk of violence and exploitation.  Ultimately sex worker will be driven further underground, which does nothing to help the minority of trafficked people working in sex work in Ireland. 

“There is nothing in the Garda statement about the workers. We don’t know if they are safe, or whether they were coerced or consenting adults. Sex work is a particular type of work that people do when they have few other options. The law does not help them. Workers will be forced to take risks to make ends meet. Questioning and arresting clients is, in fact, not support for sex workers and is a terrible use of stretched Garda resources. Mass surveilance of sex workers leads to distrust in the Gardaí, making workers less likely to report when they have been assulated.”

“The bottom line is these actions reported today are not support. The actions by the Gardaí over the past few days and the resources spent on them do nothing to help sex workers, should they want to leave sex work. In the past we have worked with the Gardaí and workers who were violently attacked to bring those perpetrators to justice.  During the period of escalated violence that has followed the 2017 change in law, SWAI has been increasingly involved on the ground with helping workers on the ground in emergency situations. In our interactions with the Gardaí, even when they are dealing with workers who have been attacked, it is clear that they are overstretched. We fear that actions such as those reported today will mean a loss of trust in the Gardaí. We would like to see Garda efforts focus on actually helping sex workers when they are the victims of a crime, instead of meddling with their means of survival.”

The Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, the only sex worker led front-line organisation in Ireland, want to see sex work decriminalised. Studies have shown that where any aspect of sex work is criminalised it means increased violence and adverse health conditions for the worker**. The 2017 law does nothing to address the precarity and lack of security that can lead to human trafficking. One of the big reasons we need full decriminalisation in Ireland is to improve relations with Gardai, so that those on the ground – sex workers and clients alike – can easily report exploitation, abuse, and trafficking without repercussion. We ask that misinformed politicians listen to us, the very people who are materially affected by these laws. Who are these laws helping? Sex workers want to be safe, like everyone else. 

#DecrimforSafety #SupportSafeSexWork.