By Sarah Mac Donald - 28 November, 2014
Ruhama, the NGO which campaigns on behalf of women affected by prostitution or trafficking, has “warmly” welcomed the publication on Thursday of the new Sexual Offences Bill which will criminalise the purchase of sex.
Referring to the unprecedented growth in the Irish sex trade, Ruhama CEO Sarah Benson said “The publication of this Bill is a very positive step in curbing this growth and holding the sex buyers to account for their key role in fuelling organised crime and perpetrating abuse against victims of trafficking and exploitation.”
It is an initial response, and Ruhama has said they would be further examining the new Bill.
“We hope it includes provisions to decriminalise those in prostitution, in a similar way to the legislation recently passed in Northern Ireland,” Sarah Benson said.
The Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill strengthen the laws on prostitution as well as increasing the penalties for the sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable people.
The new bill tackles child abuse online in relation to the use of information and technology to facilitate the abuse of children.
It also creates new offences in relation to the organisation of child prostitution and the production of child abuse images.
The new bill makes it an offence to purchase sexual services. Those convicted of paying for sex with a trafficked victim could face up to five years in jail.
Separately, one of the main messages to emerge from the Dialogue Seminar organised by COMECE and the Church and Society Commission on human trafficking is that the EU and its member states urgently need to implement the legal framework already in place and intensify cooperation with civil society and church organisations that work with victims at the grassroots level.
An estimated 800,000 women, men, and children are victims of human trafficking within the EU today. Up to 60% of the victims originate from EU states.
Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery, a criminal activity, and a lucrative global enterprise. An estimated 16% of victims are children, and they can be sold for up to €40,000.
In addition to sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic workers, human trafficking is also taking new forms such as for reproductive purposes, including surrogacy and illegal adoption.
Dialogue participants repeatedly called for more reliable and comprehensive data, including accurate estimated figures to better inform policy and faith-based responses.
They also brought extensive advocacy and policy experience to the dialogue, and heard direct accounts about human trafficking in Europe.
Victims of human trafficking need more protection and assistance through the broader implementation of existing legislation.
Victims of human trafficking should not be punished for acts committed while being trafficked. Ongoing financial support of civil society and church organisations will contribute to achieving these aims.
In the legal field, the EU has already adopted a series of directives and instruments. However, these instruments need updating to cover new forms of trafficking and to assure further implementation at the national level.
In response to the complexity and seriousness of these issues, COMECE and CEC/CCME intend to provide the EU Commission a compilation of their proposals and recommendations to fight human trafficking in the coming weeks.