Charity dealt with 304 people affected by sex trafficking and prostitution last year

A charity which works with people affected by sex trafficking and prostitution dealt with 304 cases last year.

Ruhama is calling for more to be done to address the harms caused to people in the sex trade.

The charity's annual report reveals it supported 304 women, transgender people and men in 2017.

109 of these people were victims of sex trafficking.

File photo

The charity dealt with people from 39 different countries and the vast majority of those seeking support were women.

It says there is a huge demand on its services. It held over 3,000 face to face meetings and made 23,000 telephone contacts.

"Women tell us of many incidences of physical violence, rape and sexual assault, which they have experienced at the hands of sex buyers, pimps, traffickers and opportunistic criminals alike," said Sarah Benson, CEO of Ruhama.

The long-term physical and psychological consequences of such attacks cannot be underestimated. Yet every day we are struck by women’s capacity to overcome trauma, to assert their human rights, and to fight for justice.

"In 2017, we supported dozens of women to formally report crimes committed against them to An Garda Síochána, and a number of others to more informally share information about assaults and other offences against them."

It has been illegal to pay for sex here since March 2017 but no convictions have yet been secured.

Ruhama says that swift and decisive action is needed from gardaí to target buyers and organisers

It is also calling for the Government to raise public awareness that purchasing sex is now a crime.

"We are deeply disappointed that no convictions against sex buyers have been secured under this legislation to date," said Ms Benson.

"The law cannot therefore be said to have been fully implemented. This means that the trade continues to have a customer base operating with impunity, and therefore continues to thrive, as do the organised criminal gangs profiting from the sexual exploitation of women.

"While Ruhama welcomes the increased efforts being made by some Garda units to support those in prostitution to safely report crimes against them, this is not enough.

"We need swift and decisive action from An Garda Síochána to effectively target both sex buyers and prostitution organisers using this important legislation that they now have at their disposal.

The Government must also raise public awareness that it is now a crime to purchase sex in Ireland.

Digital Desk

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