Fifty-six organizations gathered at Leinster House on Friday in support of the Turn Off the Red Light campaign, calling for the purchase of sex to be criminalized in Ireland.
According to the Irish Times, Sarah Benson, the chief executive of Ruhama, one of the groups present at the demonstration, said that making it illegal to pay for sex would make it far more difficult for pimps and traffickers to continue exploiting women.
“Sex buyers on the whole tend to be individuals of means, they are more likely to be middle class, the majority will be married,” she said. “If demand drops, the size of the trade drops and the incentive to organised criminals who traffic women drops too.”
The Irish Times reports that individuals who pay for sex in Ireland tend to be middle class, married men of means. Benson says that making it illegal to buy sex will deter them.
Organizations that have joined the campaign include Barnardos, Women’s Aid, the Rape Crisis Network Ireland and migrant women’s group AkiDwa as well as the Irish Girl Guides, Macra na Feirme, the Dominican Justice Office and the Irish Medical Organisation.
On Friday, they sent a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice calling for the introduction of legislation to criminalize the purchase of sex.
John Cunningham, chairman of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said if Ireland does not change its prostitution laws “it could very easily become the red light centre of Europe."
He added that girls as young as 14 are being trafficked into Ireland.
“We have some horrific stories of people arriving here under false pretences, being brought to the Irish Financial Services Centre, gang-raped and put in a brothel down the country.”
Cunningham said research showed “a fully functioning prostitute” could generate €240,000 a year for criminal gangs, making it a “huge” industry.
“We need to shift those antiquated ideas about it being the oldest trade in history and it being an issue of choice,” he said.
“We know it’s not about choice, it’s about abuse and inequality.”