By editor - 08 December, 2015
"This Christmas Day, while most of us settle down to a meal with loved ones, many women will be in brothels waiting for a call from their next buyer".
In a statement on Monday, Sarah Benson said these “unscrupulous individuals profit in human misery – moving the often vulnerable migrant women they control in a coordinated fashion from brothel to brothel across Ireland, with a view to satisfying local buyers’ demands.”
Her comment was made as Ruhama published its annual report for 2014 which showed that the frontline service for women affected by prostitution and sex trafficking provided support to 304 women of 37 different nationalities from across the globe during 2014, including 88 victims of sex trafficking.
Last year there was a 37% increase in face-to-face supports provided to women in both indoor and street-based prostitution.
There was an 8.5% increase in the number of women in street prostitution who accessed support, and an increase also in the number of new cases of sex trafficking supported by the organisation during 2014.
Referring to the recent PrimeTime Investigates programme on sex traffickers operating in Ireland, Sarah Benson said it gave the general public “a snapshot of the extent to which international criminals are controlling the trade”.
She added, “Ruhama witnesses the terrible human cost of this every day in our services.”
“This lucrative crime operates on a 24/7 basis, 365 days per year. We should all consider the fact that this Christmas Day while most of us settle down to a meal with loved ones, many women will be in brothels around the country, far from family and friends, waiting for a call from their next buyer, whose payment will line the pockets of pimps and traffickers.”
Given this reality, Ruhama is calling for significant support for and investment in An Garda Síochána’s National Protective Services Bureau which has responsibility for tackling organised prostitution and sex trafficking.
According to Sarah Benson “There is an urgent need for the adequate resourcing of the newly established Garda National Protective Services Bureau with the personnel and tools required to be truly effective in bringing down the criminal networks responsible for sexual exploitation in Ireland on such a large scale.”
At the same time the impact of the Bureau can be greatly strengthened by supportive legislation – not only the imminent provisions to cut off demand by outlawing the purchase of sex, but also by significantly increasing the penalties for those who organise prostitution across the country.
“The penalties attached to the organisation of prostitution are extremely small compared to the enormous profits gained by the pimps and traffickers involved. There is a golden opportunity to address this shortfall in the law by increasing the penalties for this exceedingly lucrative crime, which has terrible human consequences. It is high time that the 1993 legislation which covers this crime is updated,” Sarah Benson explained.
“We also continue to be seriously concerned that women in street prostitution can remain subject to criminal sanctions, which represents a barrier to reporting crimes perpetrated against them, and in some cases contributes to difficulties in moving on with their lives in the future.”
“It is for this reason that we continue to press for an amendment to the current Sexual Offences Bill during Committee Stage that repeals the offence of soliciting for women who sell sex on-street, in the hope of ensuring justice for all women exploited in Ireland’s sex trade.”
Sarah Benson concluded by saying: “We eagerly await the next steps for Minister Fitzgerald’s Sexual Offences Bill in the Seanad this week on the 11 December, and trust that our politicians, with massive public support behind them, will do everything they can to curb the growth of this violent trade that so seriously damages the lives of the vulnerable women and girls who continue to seek out our support.”
Ruhama’s headline statistics for 2014:
304 women were supported by Ruhama in total in 2014
|Number||Type of support|
|76||Women received street outreach support|
|1,190||Staff and volunteer hours of street outreach were delivered over 143 nights|
|209||Women received casework support, of whom:
– 121 women received general casework support
– 88 women received casework support as victims of trafficking
|1,160||Face-to-face contacts were made|
|10,592||Telephone contacts were made*|
|5,717||SMS contacts were made*|
|66||Women received Education and Development support|
|48||Women received Housing and Welfare support|