In spite of laws coming into force which criminalise the users of their services, hundreds of foreign women are still coming into Ireland to offer sex for sale.
The Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill criminalises the purchase of sexual services without criminalising those working as prostitutes.
The bill was passed in the Dáil earlier this month by 94 votes to six and was signed into law by the President on Wednesday. It means Ireland follows Canada, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and the north in introducing legislation designed to punish men who use prostitutes.
Opponents of what has become known as the Nordic model say it is only with full decriminalisation that the rights of sex workers can be protected. According to an article in Time magazine, the model “strips women of agency and autonomy” and “still means arresting, fining and jailing people over consensual sex”.
However, Ruhama, which works with women in prostitution here and believes hundreds have been trafficked into the country, says the legislation shows a strong social message enshrined in Irish law — that it is not OK for one person to buy access to another person for sex.
In spite of those using their services facing fines and being named in court, more than 700 women are listed on escort-ireland.com, by far the biggest prostitution website in this country.
The vast majority of those women were not Irish and many were only in the country on “tours” before moving elsewhere.
It put a post on its website telling users: “The legislation aims to provide protection for minors against grooming and child pornography, but it also aims to lower the demand for sex work.”
It has previously written that sex workers are being put at risk by the laws and that “the sex purchase ban in Norway meant that sex workers faced more violence”.
“Unfortunately, the increase in violence seems to be a common thread in all countries where the purchase of sex is illegal,” the website added.
On the website’s messageboard, users had mixed opinions on the impact they think the law will have.
“I reckon a lot of the ladies will disappear from here, wouldn’t blame them either, the cops will no doubt go on a rampage raiding places, easy pickings, easy money in fines. much easier that targeting the drug lords etc,” one user wrote.
Another challenged that, saying: “I’d doubt it! Where are they suddenly going to got (sic) all the resources to operate all the stakeouts needed to catch people?”
The Government has said it will review the law within three years in line with similar legislation in the North, at which point it could assess the impact of the offence in this jurisdiction.
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