The 2018 Annual Report marks three decades of front-line work by Ruhama with those it describes as “some of the most vulnerable and marginalised women in Ireland”.
They may not look like victims of sex trafficking because they are not locked away, and they may be able to attend health checks or go to Western Union to wire some money home.
“It is the little island of Ireland stepping up as much as it can in terms of awareness so that people realise that human trafficking is hidden in plain sight, and there is so much trafficking beyond the sex trade” – Anne Kelleher, Act to Prevent Trafficking (APT).
“We know that buyers don’t care about the welfare of the person they are seeking so-called ‘sexual services’ from, even when they are victims of trafficking. Paying for sex is not an expression of sexuality: it is primarily the assertion of male dominance over women.”
“We are deeply disappointed that no convictions against sex buyers have been secured under this legislation to date. The law cannot therefore be said to have been fully implemented” – Sarah Benson, CEO, Ruhama.
While implementing the law is a good first step, wider Irish society needs to know that it is now illegal to buy sexual access to another person
“Last year we provided vital support to 92 women who were victims of sex trafficking - helping them to rebuild their lives and their sense of selves,” - Ruhama
“It is now illegal to purchase sex in this country and the penalties for organising and profiting from prostitution have been increased. More needs to be done to ensure that these laws are properly enforced.”
“There needs to be a consistent approach that supports those in prostitution and where we see pimps and other exploiters being prosecuted, not the women,” Ruhama said.
301 women were assisted by the NGO according to the 2015 Annual Report including 94 victims of sex trafficking, an increase of six over the previous year (88 in 2014).
Ruhama is urging the next government to make the Sexual Offences Bill an absolute priority and place it at the top of their agenda as soon as they come to power.
"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".
Sexual Offences Bill will be an opportunity to “wreck the business model” for pimps and traffickers and ensure that Ireland is no longer a safe haven for such crimes.
"This policy fails on many levels to recognise the violence, coercion, poverty and other vulnerabilities that draw so many vulnerable women and girls into the sex trade.”
Bill will hold sex buyers to account for their key role in fuelling organised crime and perpetrating abuse against victims of trafficking and exploitation.
Speaking at the launch of Ruhama's annual report, Senator Bacik says criminalising the purchaser has resulted in a reduction in prostitution and trafficking in Sweden.