The purchasing of sex will be outlawed under new criminal offences.
Ministers signed off on the long-awaited legislation yesterday, which under the draft bill, will see those buying sex face fines of €500 or up to €5,000 if the person is trafficked.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is expected to publish the final legislation next week and make an announcement on when the new criminal offence will be enacted. It is unclear if it will or will not decriminalise sex workers in brothels or on the streets.
A group which calls itself the sex workers alliance of Ireland yesterday said it was a “sad day” for sex workers and that there are efforts in Sweden to decriminalise sex workers or soliciting by prostitutes.
Amnesty International has previously stressed that all aspects of sex work should be decriminalised.
However, Ruhama, which works with women affected by prostitution, has commended the Government previously for looking at criminalising the buying of sex.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland has also previously welcomed the outlawing of the purchasing of sex, saying it is the first important step in “wrecking the business model” that allows pimps and traffickers to profit.
The Criminal Law Sex Offences Bill will also bring in new laws to protect children from sexual exploitation. This includes laws against using computers or phones to groom and exploit children for sexual purposes.
It is expected that a new harassment order will also be introduced. This will ban people convicted of sexual offences from harassing victims or their friends and families. The legislation is also expected to reform the law on incest and address a gender anomaly whereby there will be an alignment of penalties of an offence committed by either a man or a women in such cases.
The Sexual Offences legislation will also confirm that the age of consent for sexual activity will remain at 17.
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