Online prostitution soars amid lack of resources and will

IRISH prostitution, once confined to women selling their bodies on the streets to feed an addiction or stave off poverty is now a multi-million-euro industry involving up to 1,000 women selling sex over the internet on a regular basis.

Gardaí cannot police prostitution properly — firstly due to inadequate resources, secondly due to insubstantial legislation and thirdly due to a lack of political will. Therefore the women, claiming to be ‘escorts’ not prostitutes, operate with impunity and are able to charge upwards of e300 for an hour of sex with dozens of willing clients.

Those men find the women because the internet gives them mobile phone details, vital statistics of the women, scantily clad pictures of their ‘wares’, rates and graphic lists of services offered all at the touch of a button.

The websites operate legally because they are hosted outside this state. Their owners, which include former Irish prostitutes, charge the women and their pimps several hundred euro for internet space. They claim to be business people even though they know they are hiding from the decency laws which govern this state.

That is one of the many glaring loopholes in the legislation whereby the internet can be used as a platform basing them outside the jurisdiction.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that the women providing the service are far from the only people making the money from their efforts.

The sale of illegal sex through illegal ‘escort agencies’ is expanding at a rate of knots. At present, there are upwards of 100 brothels operating, either temporarily or permanently, in cities and large towns across Ireland. They are operating their services on websites which anyone can access, yet the authorities here do essentially nothing.

There have been several raids in the past few months, not least on operations belonging to suspected human trafficker TJ Carroll and his daughter Toma, but the number of properties gardaí have closed down is merely a fraction of those which are still operating.

That is despite the fact that operating a brothel is one of the main prostitution offences listed in Irish law. The main law governing prostitution is the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993, which along with related laws, makes the following provisions:

* Soliciting — Under section 7 of the Act, it is an offence to solicit another person in a street or public place for the purposes of prostitution. That offence applies to everyone, whether male or female, prostitute or client, or third party (such as a pimp) and includes kerb crawling.

* Loitering — Under section 8, a member of An Garda Síochána may direct a person in a street or public place to leave the vicinity if he or she has reasonable cause to suspect that the person is loitering in order to solicit or importune another person for the purposes of prostitution.

* Living on earnings of prostitution — Under section 10, any person who knowingly lives in whole or in part on the earnings of the prostitution of another person and aids and abets that prostitution is guilty of an offence.

* Directing prostitution — Under section 9, any person who controls or directs the activities of a prostitute in respect of prostitution, organises prostitution or compels or coerces a person to be a prostitute commits an offence.

* Brothel keeping — It is an offence under section 11 to keep, manage or assist in the management of a brothel.

* Advertising of brothels and prostitution — Section 23 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 prohibits the advertising of brothels and prostitution.

It created the offence of publishing or distributing an advertisement which advertises a brothel or the services of a prostitute in the State or any premises or service in the State in terms, circumstances or manner which give rise to the reasonable inference that the premises is a brothel or that the service is one of prostitution.

In summary, it is illegal to solicit for prostitution, loiter for the purposes of prostitution, organise prostitution, and live off the earnings of prostitutes.

The lack of enforcement of these laws, particularly the lack of convictions of men, is setting a dangerous precedent. Prostitutes are being raped, robbed and violently assaulted because men using their services know they will not go to the gardaí for fear of prosecution for their own transgressions.


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