By Ann Marie Foley - 19 August, 2015
The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) has launched a campaign to lobby TDs ahead of the publication of a law to combat the exploitation of woman and girls in prostitution and human trafficking.
The Sexual Offences Bill, which is expected to come before the Dáil in September, has at its centre the decriminalisation of those selling sex and the criminalisation of those who buy sex.
In a statement, the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) and 73 Irish organisations under the banner of Turn off The Red Light Campaign stated that the expected publication of the new Sexual Offences Bill will be an opportunity to “wreck the business model” for pimps and traffickers and ensure that Ireland is are no longer a safe haven for such crimes.
The campaign is calling on all local TDs and Senators to support the proposals, which are similar to those which came into force in the North in June.
Campaigners expect that the Bill will include laws to target the buyers of sex whose actions, they say, are fuelling these crimes and such laws have already been successfully implemented in other countries.
Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Brian Killoran added, “We eagerly await the publication of the bill and in particular the provisions on purchasing sex. It is our firm hope that the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald TD, will incorporate recommendations unanimously backed at the Oireachtas Justice Committee for laws focusing on buyers.”
“The bill is the culmination of an exhaustive review process during which all the complex issues involved were fully examined – more than 800 written submissions were studied and months of hearings were held in the Dáil,” he said.
The campaign has united 73 Irish organisations and many individuals including doctors, nurses, frontline emergency workers, trade unionists, members of Macra and the ICA, employers, human rights campaigners, women’s and children’s rights groups.
They say this bill will bring Ireland into line with international trends, but also with the laws that have been in force in Northern Ireland since 1 June and prevent the trade from moving south into the Republic of Ireland.
“The time to act has arrived. We have been greatly encouraged by the level of local support and are now calling on politicians from all sides to unite and send out the message loud and clear that Ireland is no longer a soft target for pimps, traffickers and thugs,” said Brian Killoran.
On Monday (10 August) Amnesty International voted for the decriminalisation of sex work, or prostitution — including those who buy sex.
Groups who help sex workers and those who have been trafficked, such as Ruhama, had lobbied Amnesty members not to adopt this position but they went ahead and voted in favour of it.
The Irish Examiner reported that in spite of the Amnesty vote, Minister Fitzgerald plans to proceed with the legislation to criminalise people who pay for sex. However, the Bill will have to be “substantially discussed” in the Oireachtas in the Autumn.