Press release in speech bubble

When will the state own up to the fact that the law has failed and decriminalise sex work in Ireland?

Mardi Kennedy, coordinator of the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) commented on today’s guilty verdict of a man who assaulted two migrant sex workers in 2020 “The case today shows that the current sex work law in Ireland is failing on its own terms. The law did nothing to prevent the violent behaviour of this client.

We commend these brave workers who came forward and ensured the prosecution of a predator. However we note that this is unusual. 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?” 

Linda Kavanagh, communications manager of SWAI continues “In the wake of the change in the law in 2017, SWAI was the first point of contact for workers who were assaulted. As this case today proves, this spate of violence against sex workers has not abated. 

Everyone deserves to be safe in their job, and sex work is an economic activity. The sex workers in this case noted that they worked for themselves, they were not being exploited or coerced. 

The criminalisation of the purchase of sex does nothing to address the economic needs of sex workers. In fact, what it has done is made sex workers less safe and pushed sex work underground and away from services that can support them. 

The strategy of so-called End Demand has created a climate of hostility and scarcity which means that sex workers may feel the need to take on clients who they would normally refuse or engage in riskier behaviour. It empowers clients to demand sex with no condom, for example.”

We MUST decriminalise sex work so that workers can work together for safety. We demand the Gardaí, the Department of Justice and supporters of the law listen to sex workers about what they need. They have the power to right these wrongs.” 

* An earlier version of the blog post stated incorrectly that the sex workers were trans.