Irish sex work paper launched in Dublin

Proposed new law is dangerously misguided, say sex workers.

Today, Wednesday 4th February, sex workers and supporters launched ‘Realising Sex Workers’ Rights in Ireland,’ a ground-breaking paper addressing the reality of sex work in Ireland. Featuring the views of sex workers, legal practitioners and academics, the paper draws on international research and sets out a human rights and social justice response to sex work in Ireland. 

Catriona O’Brien, sex worker and co-author of the paper said, “This paper clearly shows that criminalising sex work increases exploitation, violence and risks to safety. Criminalisation of the purchase or sale of sex forces buyers and sellers to move to more and more isolated areas and causes sex workers to disengage with outreach and social services.”

Ms O’Brien continued “Ignoring people like me only serves to produce flawed laws which are misguided at best and actively harmful at worst. The proposed laws do not reflect the reality of my life and will only serve to reinforce our exclusion and stigmatisation. Surveys recently conducted in Northern Ireland found that 98% of sex workers did not want criminalisation introduced.  We feel the same here in the south.”

Wendy Lyon, solicitor and co-author of the paper said, “There is no credible evidence from Sweden or Norway that criminalising the purchase of sex reduces the number of people buying or selling sexual services or decreases harm in any way. Bringing in a law without proper evidence is irresponsible on the part of the Government. What we need are informed, pragmatic policies.”

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) is calling on the Government to withdraw the proposed section in the Sexual Offences Bill which criminalises the purchase of sex, and to carry out independent research which asks sex workers their views before introducing legislation that affects the lives of those selling sexual services in Ireland.

Key points from Realising Sex Workers’ Rights in Ireland:

  • The diverse voices and  experiences  of sex workers, including those of male and transgender workers, need to be heard
  • Sex workers are entitled to the same human rights as anyone else including the right to privacy and self-determination, to organise, the right to access justice and the right to recognition of their capacity and autonomy
  • A decriminalisation approach which sees the removal of all criminal prosecution of sex work goes hand-in-hand with protecting the human rights of sex workers