Donegal North East Sinn Féin Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn warned an Oireachtas Joint Committee last week that the Government must look at the bigger picture with regards to prostitution in Ireland and legislate to protect those who do not want to continue within the sex industry.
The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence & Equality heard from six organisations during last week’s initial review of Legislation on prostitution. The purpose of the meeting was to have a discussion with some of those who had made a written submission. The Committee was told that 800 submissions had been received.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn pointed out that when the committee was in Sweden, they read the criticisms of the Swedish system, including research by the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland and others. The most particular criticism was that the Swedish system drives prostitution further underground. “When we met with the Swedish justice committee, the Swedish police and social workers, we put that to every one of them, playing the role of devil’s advocate.
All of them replied that prostitution by its very nature is underground but to sell “the commodity” it must be marketed, it must be put on a website. Even though we talk about driving it underground, the seller of the commodity must market it to sustain a business. There must be advertising of sex workers on a website to invite customers. Their response, particularly from a policing perspective, was that this is never truly underground, even if efforts are made to be covert, because there must be open marketing,” said the Deputy.
“We have heard the point that not every sex worker has been trafficked or coerced, there are those who choose and who wish to continue working in that industry. A social worker at the coal face who appeared before us and who has dealt with hundreds of women in this situation, told us that almost all the women she was working with on an exit strategy did not want to remain in prostitution.” Very few wanted to remain working in the sex industry, he pointed out.
“In Ireland, there are groups who work at the coal face with victims of prostitution: domestic violence groups, immigrant groups and trade unions. This plethora of organisations has given evidence that in the vast majority of cases this is damaging to the women and men in this situation. Our Swedish counterparts told us that we cannot legislate for the minority, we must legislate for the majority, we must look at the bigger picture to protect those who do not wish to continue,” urged Deputy Mac Lochlainn.