Jailing of sex workers shows sex purchase laws ‘not fit for purpose’
The jailing of two sex workers, including one who is pregnant, shows that Ireland’s sex purchase laws are “not fit for purpose”, a sex workers’ rights group has said.
Two women were jailed for nine months last week after a judge in Naas District Court found them guilty of keeping or being in charge with a brothel in Newbridge, The Irish Times reports.
The women were working in the brothel and were refused the opportunity to pay money to charity instead of serving a jail sentence.
The Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland (SWAI) said the prosecution showed the flaws in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.
The group had raised concerns as early as 2016 about then Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s decision to toughen sentences for brothel-keeping, which it said would punish sex workers who live or work together for safety reasons.
Kate McGrew, current sex worker and SWAI director, said: “The change in law in 2017 was heralded as a law that would protect sex workers. But we at SWAI cannot understand how jailing two young migrant women will protect or rescue them in any way. Their crime, for working together for safety, is not a violent crime and there are no victims.
“Prior to the change in law in 2017 the maximum sentence for so-called brothel keeping was six months. When misinformed politicians and policy-makers speak about how the law has decriminalised workers, they completely ignore that sex workers working together for safety risk increased penalties.”
She added: “Next year, there will be a three year review of the 2017 Sexual Offences Act. The Sex Workers’ Alliance will be calling for full decriminalisation of sex workers in the review.”