A bill to criminalize the purchase of sex will be introduced to the Irish parliament today. It will target men seeking sex from prostitutes.
The Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill, scheduled to be introduced by Independent member Thomas Pringle, will partially decriminalize prostitution while imposing criminal sanctions on those who pay for sex with prostitutes.
Pringle told The Irish Times that the bill would adhere to the model used in Sweden that has been endorsed by 68 Irish organizations including the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Ruhama (the support organization for female prostitutes), the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Labour Party, Safe Ireland, the Rape Crisis Network and Barnardos.
Pringle told the press: 'The Bill will reduce the demand for sexual services, thereby reducing the incidence of prostitution in society. It will create a situation that will remove the attractiveness of prostitution and trafficking from organized criminal elements by creating the risk for purchasers of sexual services to be prosecuted with the element of 'name and shame' acting as a deterrent.'
The Bill provides an ascending scale of penalties for offenders, from a first time fixed-notice fine of $650, to a $5000 fine and/or a four-week jail sentence for repeat offenders.
Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council, said having seen 'at first hand' the experience of the Swedish authorities and 'the failure of regularization in Amsterdam' the council had 'come to the firm conclusion that the best way to end the crime of sex trafficking was to target the demand for prostitution.'
The most recent Irish Department of Justice figures confirmed 134 people had been trafficked to Ireland for sexual exploitation between 2009 and 2011, and that one in four of those trafficked were children.
'As a frontline organization we do not believe the figures tell the full picture, and the OSCE and the US State Department agree. Both of these have criticized Ireland for falling short in the identification of victims of sex-trafficking.'
Charlton rejected arguments that prostitution should ever be viewed as a job. 'It is run by organized crime which places up to 800 women for sale everyday online in Ireland,' she said.
Rowley, communications and policy officer with Ruhama, also rejected this proposition, saying one could 'never, never countenance prostitution as a valid or acceptable choice for women. No job in a decent society should involve women being at risk of rape and violence every day.'