Project offers ex-prostitutes yoga courses

A FÁS-funded project for women affected by prostitution is helping them exit the sex industry and access jobs, education, as well as courses in yoga.

The €100,000 project has so far taken in up to 20 women affected by prostitution, mainly females trafficked into Ireland for sex purposes.

But it was also revealed yesterday that just seven sex traffickers have been prosecuted in the last two years, since new anti-trafficking laws were rolled out.

Dublin city councillors were briefed about the course for women exiting prostitution. Lord Mayor Emer Costello said many people previously had chosen to ignore concerns about human trafficking.

But she added: “It’s clear now today that we can’t really deny that many men, women and children are actually being trafficked to Ireland for exploitation, even in the sex industry.”

Announcing details of the Fás-funded project, Ruhama, the group working with women affected by prostitution, said the course was empowering those who had left the sex industry.

Services being offered to women included career guidance, literacy, English classes as well as support in contacting local employment agencies.

The 20 participants affected by prostitution come from Africa, Eastern Europe and Ireland, said Ruhama chief Sarah Benson.

“In some ways, this is quite revolutionary in offering the opportunity in bridging the gap for some of the most marginalised women in Ireland,” she said.

Other services being accessed by women in the project include counselling, reflexology, sexual health advice and yoga.

Gráinne Healy with the Dignity project – an EU initiative looking at victims of sex trafficking – said the links between the sex industry and trafficking were shocking.

“On any one day in Ireland, there are 1,000 women available on the internet, to be purchased and be delivered to your hotel room or apartment. You can access them whether you’re in Tullamore, Thurles or the heart of Dublin.”

Politicians and support groups debated the merits of outlawing the purchase of sex in Ireland, a practice in Sweden which has seen a fall in sex trafficking.

It was pointed out a man curb-crawling could be arrested in Ireland but not prosecuted if found by gardaí in a brothel.

Meanwhile, the head of the Department of Justice’s anti-human trafficking unit admitted just seven people have been prosecuted for human sex trafficking in the last two years.

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