Major document on prostitution legislation published

The long-awaited public discussion on plans to either clamp down on or legalise prostitution, which was the focus of an Irish Examiner special investigation this week, has begun.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter last night published a document which lays out the possible new laws to modernise the policing of the country’s sex trade.

Four possible approaches have been outlined.

These are:

* Complete criminalisation of all aspects of the trade;

* Partial criminalisation which could adopt the Swedish model of targeting penalties at people paying for sex rather than those working as prostitutes;

* Legalisation to remove any involvement of the State in policing it and accept it is a part of society;

* Legalisation, but regulation of prostitution to ensure that prostitutes benefit from health checks, are protected, and brothels are registered.

The document said it did not favour any one of the four options but presented the pros and cons of each.

Mr Shatter said his department would hold a conference on the issue in the autumn and the document would be referred to the Oireachtas committee on justice for detailed consideration.

“It is important that I facilitate the expression of all views on this subject and that those views are examined in due course.

“Public debate should therefore, be open to the widest possible audience.”

Mr Shatter had been criticised for the Government’s failure to deliver the document before now and open up the discussion on changing the law.

Ruhama CEO Sarah Benson welcomed the call for all interested parties to submit their views on the direction of future laws.

She said people owed it to the victims of the sex trade to engage with the debate and get involved.

The 59-page discussion document sets out a long list of questions for consideration on various issues surrounding prostitution and the law.

The justice committee has until the end of November to consider its contents and report back to the minister.

Chairman of the committee, David Stanton, said its practice had been to open up debate to all interested parties.

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