W deserve Healthcare free from stigmaWe all deserve to work in safety, access health services and paths to justice. Since the enactment of the 2017 law, sex workers are less safe. Violent crime against sex workers has increased by 92% in the past 2 years. 

Kate McGrew, sex worker and director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says “We deserve to be safe but instead of decreasing demand the laws have created a buyers market, where the purchasers of sex hold the power. This in direct opposition to what we were told was the intention of the law. Sex workers are not decriminalised. The penalties of sex workers sharing premises together, also known as brothel keeping, has doubled since the introduction of the new Sexual Offences Bill in 2017. Sex workers are now forced to work in isolation, which puts them at further risk of violence and exploitation. Since the law has been introduced many more sex workers have been arrested than clients. We want sex work decriminalised so that the power gets put back in the hands of the worker.”

She adds “Security and safety matter to sex workers too. When the laws changed in 2017 we saw a marked increase in violent crime. We supported several trans migrant sex workers after a spate of serial attacks. If we are attacked we want to rely on the Gardaí to help us and to apprehend our attackers. Sex workers are afraid to report crimes to Gardai, in fear their workplace will then be surveilled to catch their clients. The law means sex workers see Gardai don’t have their best interests at heart, as they need to enforce the laws. The current law diverts much-needed resources away from community policing and into policing what happens between consenting adults.”  

“Sex workers can be an ally in the fight against trafficking, but right now we feel we cannot approach the Gardaí with information because we will be surveilled, or worse, deported. This new law does nothing to solve human trafficking.” Kate Continues. “Everyone is worthy of a life without oppression and coercion, including sex workers. Workers that have been caught up in brothel raids have been asked to leave the country. Where are the oversight and compassion? How does that solve human trafficking?

We want to be safe in our jobs. Since the laws have been enacted workers have lost negotiating power with their clients. Ending demand has led to a drop in prices, increased risk-taking such as taking clients that they feel aren’t safe or not using a condom. In Ireland rates of HIV are rising. Sex workers are at increased risk of HIV but with stigma perpetuated by state bodies and misguided politicians, workers may not attend services provided for them. Trans and vulnerable migrant workers bear the brunt of this and fall through the cracks. We need services fit for purpose.

In Ireland, in the past year, we have monumental strides away from our dark past of Magdeline laundries and hiding women away in shame. We succeeded in repealing the 8th amendment by having difficult conversations about taboo topics. We asked the country to listen and they did. Now we ask misinformed politicians to listen to us. 

We are the currently working sex workers in this country. We are the experts in our lives and we are telling you that these laws are damaging. We are calling on the government to decriminalise sex work fully in the 2020 review and make sex workers safe.” 

#DecrimforSafety #SupportSafeSexWork

Sex Workers Want Rights Not Rescueess releasem

Kate McGrew, director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says “This man was caught procuring sex during a raid on a so-called brothel, when two or more workers work together. This case yet against highlights how the law is being used against workers who may want to work together for safety reasons. This man was collateral damage in an ill-fated war to end demand. He was not the intended target of the raid, the workers were.” 

She continues “As a result of this prosecution workers will be forced to work alone, which increases their vulnerability. Working or living with another sex worker is illegal in Ireland. Penalties doubled for workers working in pairs or groups when the law change and this change in law happened quietly, but it is an extremely dangerous piece of legislation. The Nordic model purportedly is meant to target the client but by this law, but if we want to work legally here we are forced to work alone. Violent attacks specifically increased on us 77% in the first year of the law being introduced. This is not a coincidence.” 

“This is the first prosecution of a client under the laws brought in in 2017, but from statistics we go from the Central Statistics office we know 55 people have been arrested. We can only conclude that the rest of those prosecuted under brothel keeping laws are the workers themselves. Is this really what this law was introduced for?” 

“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. When anti-sex work organisations speak about all sex work being violence, including the consensual transactions, what recourse do we have when we are actually assaulted?”

“No one is asking about the sex workers who have been caught in this raid. We hope they are safe and getting the support they need and we would like to remind them and all other sex workers that we are here for peer-led, non judgemental support for all sex workers”

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
(http://www.cso.ie/en/methods/crime/statisticsunderreservationfaqs/) Under Reservation FAQ page
(http://www.cso.ie/en/methods/crime/recordedcrime/) See Background Notes

134 Prostitution Offences is made up of

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