The sharp rise is at variance with the rest of the country, although caution has been expressed given the short timeframe.
Garda figures supplied to the Policing Authority show an overall decline in sex crimes in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016.
This is driven by falls in five regions, including significant drops in the Dublin region (-12%) and the northern region (-17%).
However, in the southern region, covering Cork, Kerry and Limerick, the number of reported sexual offences jumped by 20%. It also rose in the western region (by 5%).
The Garda figures are provisional and its update to the authority stresses that the CSO figures represent official crime statistics.
CSO figures cover up to the end of 2016. Its data shows there were 110 recorded sex offences in the southern region in the first quarter of 2016 — suggesting that 132 sex offences have been reported in the first three months of this year.
CSO figures for 2016 show there were 110 in Q1, 102 in Q2, 101 in Q3 and 95 in Q4.
The Garda figures also show a 5% rise in crimes against the person (assault, robbery, aggravated burglary) in the southern region, compared to a 1% fall nationally.
Mary Crilly of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre said that it was very difficult to assess the significance of figures from three months.
“It’s swings and roundabouts with the figures, but you really need to see the figures over a full year,” she said.
Ms Crilly said: “Some people think it depends on the time of year — like the summer and festivals and there’s more — but it’s not like that.
“You have to remember that it’s still only one in four who report rapes and sexual assaults.”
While she encouraged people to report any such attack, she understood the difficulty in so doing. She said witnesses, be it members of an extended family or group of friends, often won’t come to the aid of the victim.
“They don’t want to get involved,” she said. “They might even want to shut them up and want things to go back to ‘normal’.
“As a society, we need to look at perpetrators. There is a 5% conviction rate and perpetrators know that. They are getting away with it.
“The message is nobody has the right to touch you, whether you are drunk or sober.”
She said a recent positive development was the creation of a specialist unit in Cork to deal with sexual and domestic violence.
A local Protective Services Bureau has been set up in Anglesea Garda Station. It is one of a number of regional units that have been created after the establishment of a national PSB in Dublin.
“I have met them and they are good and interested,” said Ms Crilly.
Freephone Cork 1800 496 496; nationally 1800 77 88 88