Limerick should create a “tolerance zone” for prostitution rather than trying to eradicate it, an international trade union for sex workers has said.
The Britain-based organisation said statements from Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins that Sweden had seen a 70% reduction in prostitution as a result of criminalising the purchase of sex was incorrect.
The International Union of Sex Workers also rejected estimates by the Limerick TD that “99%” of prostitutes were abused and trafficked into Ireland.
Mr Collins made his comments recently in reports highlighting concerns of business people in Limerick at the impact of prostitution in their area.
In a letter to the Irish Examiner, the IUSW’s spokeswoman, Laura Lee, said: “The solution for Limerick is a tolerance zone, away from the city centre, where the Garda can work with the sex workers rather than against them.”
She said this policy had been “very successful” in Liverpool, where she claimed the crime rate had plummeted.
“It is impossible for any society to completely eradicate prostitution,” she said. “What is required is a sensible approach to protect the most vulnerable and ensure that the safety of all is paramount.”
Ms Lee said comments by Mr Collins that prostitution had reportedly fallen by 70% in Sweden was “both erroneous in fact and hugely misleading”.
She said: “There is no evidence from Sweden whatsoever to suggest that overall prostitution has been reduced, other than a small reduction in street prostitution.”
The Swedish police’s final report on prostitution and trafficking, published in Feb 2011, showed a 569% rise in reported cases of the purchase of sexual services from 2008 to 2010.
Ms Lee said Mr Collins’ comment that “99% of these women have been abused and trafficked” was not supported by evidence.
“I can say without a shadow of a doubt, during my 10 years of experience in the industry, I have never met a trafficked or abused sex worker in Ireland,” said Ms Lee. “On any given day, there will be between 800 — 1,000 sex workers advertising online, many of them from countries other than Ireland.
“A distinction needs to be drawn between a ‘migrant’ and a ‘trafficked’ sex worker.”
In June, the Oireachtas Justice Committee, which visitedSweden, recommended the purchase of prostitution be criminalised, backing a campaign by Turn Off the Red Light, representing 65 organisations.
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