More than 25% of punters have refrained from buying sex from a prostitute because she appeared to be either trafficked, coerced, or underage, a survey by the Immigrant Council of Ireland has found.
The online survey also revealed that by far the biggest fear about paying for sex was not that they would be caught but that they would have a bad experience or contract a disease.
The council spent three months using social media, websites, and chatrooms to invite responses from Irish sex buyers, as well as people who did not use prostitutes.
It received 411 responses, including 58 from punters — 57 men and one woman, who had paid for sex.
Trends identified in previous surveys emerged again — a majority of those who paid for sex were middle-aged, in a relationship, earned a moderate wage and lived in cities or towns.
The council survey found 43 of the 58 who had bought sex had done so abroad — 20 in the Britain, 16 in the Netherlands, 12 in Germany, 14 in Thailand, and eight in the Czech Republic.
Roughly half the punters confirmed they had bought sex in Ireland, 12 said they had not, and the remaining 19 did not answer the question.
Of the 58 punters, all but eight had used a prostitute more than once — nine said “very often” and seven said “quite often”.
A major concern for anti-prostitution groups is the level of coercion and trafficking in the sex trade.
The survey asked punters how many had changed their mind and contacted police instead of going through with sex.
While 36 respondents did not answer the question, six said they had never changed their mind on first sight of the prostitute. However, 16 (27.5%) said they had and, between them, they gave 23 reasons for the change of mind.
“From the answers provided, six stated they had [changed their mind] as the person appeared controlled, five stated they had because the person appeared unhappy, four said they had because the person appeared too young, two stated they had because the person appeared unwilling, while two stated because the person appeared intimidated, ‘hurt or injured’,” said a council spokesman. “Other answers included because the person appeared frightened or scared.”
Denise Charlton, chief executive of the council, said the findings were an important contribution to the debate on whether to curb exploitation by targeting the buyers of sex.
“We have now heard from the buyers themselves that such laws would be a deterrent,” she said. “After fear of disease [32%], the fear of a criminal conviction [19%], jail time [17%], and name in a local paper [17%] is what the users of prostitutes fear most.
“We know too that the image of the happy, independent hooker which is being portrayed by those opposed to new laws is not the reality; 24% of buyers reconsidered a transaction because they believed the women and girls involved were controlled, unhappy, too young, unwilling, or intimidated.”
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