Sex Workers Against Criminalisation – Laura Lee Blog

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) call on Minister for Justice not to introduce laws criminalising the purchase of sex.

Man on top of woman in bed symbolising sex workers
Photo of handsome male and his beautiful female lover

Today (December 17th) sex workers and supporters will hold candlelit vigils outside Leinster House in Dublin at 6pm and outside City Hall, Belfast at 7pm to mark International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers.

Although it is legal to sell sexual services in Ireland, almost all other aspects of sex work are criminalised. workers risk arrest simply by working with another person for safety.

Kate McGrew, sex worker and SWAI Coordinator, stated “Irish laws are already putting our lives at risk, and this proposed new legislation will only further endanger the most vulnerable. We gather today to remember sex workers who have been the victims of violence, and to tell the Minister for Justice that it is unacceptable to sacrifice sex workers’ safety for a moral crusade. Our lives are worth more.”

Criminalisation is a legal strategy which purports to ‘end demand’ for sexual services in order to abolish sex work entirely. This approach, commonly referred to as the ’Swedish Model’ has been heavily criticised by sex workers, support workers, medical professionals (the Lancet) and international organisations such as UN AIDS and the World Health Organisation for increasing the marginalisation and victimisation of sex workers. Due to their clients’ risk of arrest, sex workers are pushed further into isolation and away from support services and protection. This law has been rejected in other Nordic countries such as Denmark and Finland and was rejected in France and the UK.

Kate McGrew, continued, “The Minister says she wants to decriminalise sex workers but just last Friday in the Seanad the Government sought to strengthen the Public Order Act to target people suspected of selling sexual services. The Government has no intention of decriminalising workers and is doing exactly the opposite by actually strengthen laws which will target us. Irish laws will continue to criminalise, isolate and punish workers instead of protecting or supporting us. The most marginalised will suffer the most”.

Ella, sex worker, said “I am so sad about this law. Why did no one ask me?. I live a normal life. I am a working mother. Why do I have to be scared?”.

As a highly-stigmatised group, sex workers are particularly vulnerable to violence and crime. Since 1979, at least 8 sex workers have been murdered in Ireland. Many sex workers, due to a fear of being criminalised and stigmatised, do not report crime or seek support from state run services.

Sex Workers Stand Up

Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland (SWAI) firmly believes criminalisation will only cause further harm and violence to sex workers in Ireland and advocates for a harm reduction and decriminalisation approach as taken in New Zealand. This approach sees the focus of policy responses on the human rights, safety, welfare and occupational health of sex workers

Criminalising the purchase of sexual services harms sex workers, marginalises the most vulnerable, and simply doesn’t work. SWAI calls on the Minister for Justice to look again at the indisputable evidence from Amnesty International, the WHO, UN AIDS, HIV Ireland, Pro Sentret, Norway and the Rose Alliance, Sweden. Sex workers suffer more when the purchase of their services is criminalised.

Sex worker and SWAI Coordinator Kate McGrew available for interview

Contact Kate McGrew, Sex Worker and SWAI Coordinator 086 777 8700 Dearbhla Ryan, Community Worker, SWAI 087 767 7148

Notes –

Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was first recognized in 2003 as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington. Since 2003, Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered people around the world to come together and organise against discrimination and remember victims of violence. http://www.december17.org/

Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland (SWAI) is an organisation that promotes the health, safety, human rights and participation of female, male, cis and transgender sex workers in Ireland. SWAI believe a social justice, human rights and harm reduction approach to policy and laws around sex work is essential for the safety, health and rights of all people who sell sexual services.. http://www.sexworkersallianceireland.org/

Consequences of the ‘Nordic’ Model: In July 2013, Petite Jasmine, a sex worker and rights activist in Sweden, was murdered by her former partner, the father of her children. Despite the man’s history of abuse and violence he was given full custody of their children as Jasmine was ruled an unfit parent for being a sex worker. Jasmine’s tragic and preventable death followed numerous reports of threats and stalking. She was never listened to because she was a sex worker. http://www.nswp.org/news-story/nswp-statement-response-the-murder-jasmine

Pro Sentret Norwegian NGO highlighted the increased violence experienced by sex workers following introduction of criminalisation of buyers there in its 2012 report, Dangerous Liaisons: https://humboldt1982.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/dangerous-liaisons.pdf Amnesty International have also highlighted impact of criminalisation: http://www.sexworkersallianceireland.org/documents/AIsubmissions20Bill2015.pdf http://tinyurl.com/ogrs9dc

New Zealand Model: The New Zealand model is the Prostitution Reform Act, 2003 introduced in New Zealand as a means to explicitly focus policy responses on the human rights, safety, welfare and occupational health of sex workers. Decriminalisation removes criminal sanctions from the sale of sex through brothels (allowing sex workers to work together), escort agencies and soliciting. http://www.nzpc.org.nz/index.php?page=Law

Laura Lee

Laura Lee

Irish mother, writer, animal lover, perpetual student and sex workers' rights campaigner.
Laura Lee

One thought on “Sex Workers Against Criminalisation – Laura Lee Blog”

  1. If there was not a demand for it then the sex industry would not exist.
    Why should it be any different to the purchase of any other commodity providing it is provided by willing participants.
    Moral objections are archaic and outdated especially by a religion that more than adequately demonstrated the results of sexual suppression !

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