Sex Workers Want Rights Not Rescue

Since the laws have been introduced there have been 55 people arrested for prostitution offences, but only 2 of them are clients. Garda resources are already stretched without having to police consensual acts between a sex worker and their client.   

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) supports the findings of the associations between sex work laws and sex workers’ health, that criminalisation of sex work including the purchase of sex normalises violence against sex workers. The report shows that when aspects of sex work are policed there are higher instances of HIV among sex workers, less safe sex, more instances of violence by their clients and others including the police, lack of access to support and that it leads to workers are taking more risks in order to work and survive. Whereas in places where sex work is tolerated workers have more access to justice and better bargaining power with their clients. 

Kate McGrew, SWAI’s director says “This report backs up what we already knew; that sex workers lives and health, including mental health, are damaged by aspects of our work being criminalised. Criminalisation of clients, which is the law introduced here last year, means that workers are forced to take more risks. Fines were also increased for sex workers working together for safety, which fall under the crime of brothel-keeping. These laws were introduced to “rescue” sex workers from our work but this report shows that policing of sex work leads to poorer outcomes.”

She continued “As we predicted, violence against sex workers rose dramatically once these brothel-keeping and client criminalisation laws came in. When a serial rapist or attacker shows up in our community, often workers will only share this information amongst ourselves and not report because of the threat of prosecution. 

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. How is there oversight and care shown in these cases? How can that lead to improved interactions and trust with the state?

The laws put in place in 2017 are scheduled for a review in 2020 but until that time sex workers face increased violence and a reduction in safety. We are collateral damage in the ill-fated war against our means of survival.”

We got the following stats from the Central Statistics Office when we requested information on prostitution offenses 

Recorded Crime Offences Under Reservation (Number) by Type of Offence and Quarter
134 ,Prostitution offences 2017Q1 2017Q2 2017Q3 2017Q4 2018Q1 2018Q2
9 6 12 12 11 5
Statistics Under Reservation.
For further information see our
( Under Reservation FAQ page
( See Background Notes

134 Prostitution Offences is made up of

1341 Brothel keeping
1342 Organisation of prostitution
1343 Prostitution, including soliciting etc