Human rights lawyer suggests ‘sex-for-rent’ landlords could be prosecuted

Noeline Blackwell
Noeline Blackwell

A prominent human rights lawyer has suggested landlords could face prosecution for requesting sexual favours in lieu of rent.

Solicitor Noeline Blackwell, the chief executive of Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, claimed the practice is an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2017, but other legal experts have criticised her interpretation of the law.

Ms Blackwell made the comments to the Irish Examiner following a recent report in The Echo about a property advertised for rent in Cork in exchange for sex twice a week.

She said: “It’s not a criminal offence to sell sex, but it is to buy sex. Buying sex with accommodation is the equivalent to buying it with money.

“The law around sexual abuse and rape is simple and comprehensive. If sexual activity occurs without free and voluntary consent, that is sexual abuse.

“These people are being coerced into doing something — they may not be hauled into the house but it is still coercion — sex is not free and voluntary in most of these cases, consent is given for basic shelter.”

However, Abbey Law partner Wendy Lyon told Irish Legal News that the 2017 Act would not necessarily cover so-called “sex-for-rent” arrangements.

Ms Lyon said: “The relevant provisions of the Sexual Offences Act specifically refer to offering remuneration for ‘sexual activity with a prostitute’, so it isn’t clear at all that a generally-directed offer such as this would violate the ban on paying for sex.”

She added: “As to whether it should be an offence, I can think of nothing more revolting than the sight of government TDs standing up in the Dáil to morally pontificate about it while their own policies have created the conditions that allow it to happen.”

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