(Brussels, 9 February 2012) The Irish Prime Minister Mr Enda Kenny announced on 8 February that Justice Minister Alan Shatter is considering new legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex in Ireland. This announcement takes place after a long period of debate in Ireland, and of particular efficient advocacy from EWL partner Turn Off the Red Light.
Turn Off the Red Light (TORL) is a campaign to end prostitution and sex trafficking in Ireland, being run by a new alliance of 48 professional, political and voluntary organizations and unions. Since its establishment in 2010, the alliance works at raising public awareness about the dangers of prostitution and sex trafficking and lobbying the Government to introduce legislation to end the exploitation of women, men and children in the sex industry.
In September 2011, members of TORL (Immigrant Council of Ireland and Ruhama) organised an information exchange in Dublin between members of the Swedish and Norwegian police forces and the Gardaí, the PSNI, the HSE, the Legal Aid Board, unions, housing associations and gender-based violence services. The event gained a lot of media attention, as the police representatives from Sweden and Norway alerted on the impact of the legalisation of prostitution on organised crime (“Legalising prostitution would line the pockets of organised crime gangs”), and said that a law banning purchase of sex “would reduce sex trafficking and prostitution”.
In October 2011, the Irish Senate debated a motion on human trafficking and prostitution, proposed by the group of Independent Senators. Following the debate, Minister Kathleen Lynch (responsible for equality and health) gave a commitment that the Government would spend the next six months engaged in public consultation on the introduction of prostitution legislation similar to that introduced in Sweden and Norway.
Since then, Turn Off the Red Light has been working on public mobilization, political advocacy and refining the arguments, in particular legal preparations to address questions about the implementation of a law criminalising the purchase of sex.
On 7 February, the TV channel RTÉ One broadcasted, in the framework of its programme Prime Time, the documentary ‘Profiting from Prostitution’, an hour-long investigation into the people profiting from prostitution in Ireland. Following a six-month investigation, reporter Paul Maguire goes right to the heart of organised prostitution and dispels the myth women work independently.
On the following day, the Turn Off the Red Light campaign together with the group of Independent Taoiseach Nominated Senators held a briefing in the Parliament to highlight issues from the documentary ‘Profiting from Prostitution’. The documentary has made a great impression on the Irish Prime Minister, who said that the abuse of women by Irish men seems to be extraordinarily prevalent.
The EWL is delighted to see that the Swedish and Norwegian legislative models tackling prostitution have gained attention in Ireland, and that progressive legislation will be introduced to ensure all women in Europe could live free from prostitution and violence. Hopefully the new law will be voted on soon in Ireland!