Former prostitutes have today called on the Government to make violence against men and women in the sex trade a hate crime.
Two Dublin women who escaped the sex industry want the law changed to protect the estimated 800 prostitutes across the country and penalise those who buy sex.
Rachel Moran and Justine Reilly are co-founders of Space (Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment), an international group of sex-trade survivors spanning Ireland, the UK, United States, France and Canada.
Ms Moran, 37, said human trafficking and prostitution is a borderless crime, with buyers of sex able to pick a woman being pimped online “at the click of a mouse”.
“In excess of 90% of people prostituted in Ireland today are young women from impoverished countries all over the world, such as Romania, Bulgaria, Nigeria and Brazil,” said Ms Moran, an ex-cocaine addict who was a prostitute for seven years.
“Pimping and trafficking gangs, both foreign and home-grown, have a stranglehold on prostitution in Ireland and have done for many years.
“Legislation is very important because it will make trafficking a non-viable business choice,” she added.
An Oireachtas committee recently proposed that Ireland should adopt a model used in Sweden to penalise buyers of sex rather than prostitutes.
The Committee on Justice recommended that: the accessing of online brothel directories should be made a criminal offence; more supports for women exiting the industry; and the Criminal Assets Bureau should focus on the finances and flow of money to criminal organisations.
Ms Moran urged the Government to implement the measures and to make violent crimes against prostituted persons a hate crime.
“This model of protecting women in prostitution has already been in effect, to great success, in Liverpool since 2006, and we see no reason why it could not or should not be incorporated into our new legal framework, so that those who remain in prostitution in Ireland will be fully protected under Irish Law,” she added.
Ms Reilly said she was forced into prostitution by a former partner for about 17 years until 2010.
The 45-year-old said that without clients, women trafficked into the country by pimps would be thrown out on the streets where they could get support.
“The simple word is hope,” she added.
“When somebody is so destitute and so low they need direction.
“You need to teach these women how to lead a normal life, how to pay their bills, pay their rent.
“If you can give them hope and a journey and a light they will follow.”