Beer mat campaign targets sextrafficking

Young men tempted to go to a prostitute may get a shock reminder of the reality of sex trafficking when they are out drinking with friends.

A new campaign is distributing beer mats to bars and hotels with the testimony of a 15-year-old survivor of human trafficking. She was forced to have sex with 15 men a day before she escaped.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland, supported by a European Commission project, is trying to reach out to those driving the demand for prostitution in Ireland.

The council said that the awareness campaign was particularly targeted at young men and involved the distribution of thousands of beer mats.

“This is a direct way to reach out to young men who, under the influence of drink, may have reduced inhibitions, false courage, or allow themselves to be subjected to peer pressure to end their night at a local brothel,” said ICI chief executive Denise Charlton.

“Through the beer mats we are making clear the reality which exists for many in the sex ‘trade’.

“By placing the real testimony of a teen sold into prostitution for €3,000 and ‘forced to have sex with 15 men a day’ in front of young drinkers, we believe most will reject this exploitation.”

The flipside of the beer mat has an emergency email address, to report suspicions of trafficking.

“The message is hard-hitting — but so is the reality of prostitution and it is important to make men aware of that,” said Ms Charlton.

“We are pleased with the reaction of publicans with mats in place in central Dublin and would encourage others to get involved.”

Ms Charlton said this was one of a number of initiatives the council had undertaken under the European Commission ‘StopTraffick’ project, in order to highlight the role buyers and demand for prostitution play in fuelling crime and abuse.

Ms Charlton said a special training programme had also been developed for organisations in industries such as hospitality, transport and others whose staff or members suspect that victims of human trafficking are being sold for prostitution in their premises.

She said the council will be working with student representatives and trade unions in the months ahead to promote both the programme and the beer mat awareness campaign.

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