Law reform ‘will make prostitution more dangerous’

A sex worker has claimed that proposed reforms to Ireland’s laws on prostitution will make the industry even more dangerous for women.

“Criminalising any aspect of this industry could make it more dangerous,” Lady Grew said.

“We feel that sex work must be seen as legitimate work, and that criminalising any aspect of the industry creates a much more dangerous environment for all involved.”

She will outline her argument at Cork’s first Sexual Wellness conference this weekend.

Cork Feminista had invited speakers from the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign (TORLC) which aims to end prostitution, to address their conference. Beginning at 11am today and tomorrow, it will be held in Camden Palace Hotel.

Lady Grew, however, asked the organisers to include speakers from the sex trade to provide balance and she and two other sex workers were added to the bill.

But the move prompted the TORLC speakers to withdraw from the conference.

Lady Grew said: “The way I work is not against the law. I have to work alone, which is dangerous for me. I can’t pay a bodyguard, which is dangerous for me.

“We need more transparency in this industry; more interaction with the authorities, the various agencies and with gardaí; and less stigma.

“People have a moral issue with this business. But for me, it’s work that suits me best.

“Do people get involved out of desperation? We all work for money. Does that mean we are all desperate? This work suits me very, very well.

“It has low overheads, and high profit margins. And I enjoy it really, really, greatly.”

However, Ruhama, an organisation which supports women who have been prostituted or trafficked, said the sex trade is inherently dangerous and attached to criminality.

Its CEO, Sarah Benson said courageous “survivors of prostitution” are increasingly highlighting the harm, dangers and risks associated with the industry.

“The suggestion that legalising it will make it safer is an absolute fallacy,” she said.

Dutch and German reports into the legalisation of the industry in their countries have shown their efforts to create a regulated system have failed, she said.

“There has actually been an explosion in the sex trade; an increase in the numbers of people and minors trafficked; a reduction in the control and autonomy for those involved, and an increase in the control and autonomy for those who run the business — the pimps,” she said.

Last year, the Oireachtas Justice Committee unanimously issued recommendations to reform Ireland’s laws on prostitution, including maker the buyer of sex a criminal, and supporting services for those who wish to exit prostitution.

The Lower House of the French Parliament, along with Canada and Northern Ireland, are well advanced on adopting similar approaches.

But a week before the first anniversary of the committee’s report, the Irish Government has yet to act on the reform proposals.

Ms Benson urged Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to act on them soon, and to adopt the so-called Nordic approach, which criminalises the buyer, and provides supports to those involved or affected by prostitution.

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