Sex workers and other “stakeholders” involved in or associated with the sale of sex are to be asked for their views on a review of Ireland’s prostitution law.
There will also be an online survey launched in the coming weeks as part of a public consultation process.
Written submissions will also be accepted as part of the Department of Justice-initiated process which is to be overseen by criminal lawyer Maura Butler.
She will focus on Part 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.
The act removed those who offer their services as a prostitute from existing offences of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution.
Part 4 of the Act introduced two new offences - paying for sexual activity with a prostitute and paying for sexual activity with a trafficked person.
But while the act aimed to decriminalise prostitutes, disrupt demand and tackle human trafficking, it has been widely criticised by the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland.
They have argued it actually puts prostitutes at greater risk.
Welcoming the commencement of the review by Ms Butler, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said: “A key purpose for the 2017 Act was to provide additional protection to persons involved in prostitution, especially vulnerable persons and victims of human trafficking.
“By reforming the law to criminalise the purchase of sex, we hoped to ensure that persons engaged in prostitution would feel free to provide information to Gardaí, for instance where they have been subjected to violence by clients, without fear of prosecution for selling sexual services.”
The 2017 Act specifically provided for a review of these provisions after a period of 3 years, including an assessment of the impact of the Act on the welfare of those who engage in sexual activity for payment.
The Sex Workers Alliance Ireland said the forthcoming review “will show the current law is a failed experiment”.
“Currently working sex workers in Ireland are central to the review of the law,” Kate McGrew, sex worker and director of the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI), said.
“We are the experts in how this law has affected the health and safety of sex workers in Ireland. “The voice of SWAI, the only frontline, sex worker-led organisation in Ireland, was largely excluded when this law was debated in 2017.
“This was unacceptable.”