Today, the 3rd of March is International Sex Workers Rights Day. The Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) is the only sex workers rights groups in Ireland who places currently working sex workers at the heart of the campaign. We are also the only sex worker group in the country that supports male and trans sex workers, as well as female sex workers.
Kate McGrew, director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says “In 2017, despite warnings from us and other bodies in Ireland misguided politicians proceeded to change the laws and adopt what is known as the Swedish model of client criminalisation. Since that time there has been a 77% increase in violence against sex workers. ”
She continues “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. There will be a review of the law in 2020 and we will be centering the voices of currently working and former sex workers. These laws make sex workers unsafe. When 50 workers have been prosecuted under the laws but only two men we can see how these laws are being used against the people they are supposed to save and are not fit for purpose.
For sex workers, the police are vectors of violence, not of safety or harm reduction. Migrant sex workers, already on the margins of society, are the targets of these raids and are offered the choice of leaving the country or face prosecution and possibly deportation. These strategies only serve to move the sex workers on and no interaction with support services or assistance is offered.
There is a mounting body of evidence that full decriminalisation of sex work is the only way to keep sex workers safe and ensure that we have full access to justice and supports. By pushing sex workers to the margins and criminalising their work we leave workers open to exploitation from 3rd parties.”
Sex workers are tired of being spoken about, not spoken to. Misinformation and use of stereotypes about sex workers used in the media damage the safety and their opportunities to access rights.
Bella, sex worker based in Dublin says “I am proud of being a sex worker. My profession has allowed me to follow my dreams and overcome the extreme poverty I came from. Class oppression made me bow down to the more powerful many times over in my life. Thanks to sex work I am independent and stronger. I don’t need to be saved, I don’t need to be rescued. We have a voice, we can speak for ourselves!”