The new Irish laws have made sex workers lives more dangerous, says activist Kate McGrew 1 year ago

The new Irish laws have made sex workers lives more dangerous, says activist Kate McGrew

Incidences of violent crime against sex workers in Ireland have risen by 92% in the last two years.

It’s been two years since Ireland made it illegal to pay for sex. The law would, lobbyists insisted, decriminalise sex workers and would target pimps and buyers instead.


The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, a version of 'end demand' or 'Nordic model' legislation, was supposed to take the spotlight off the workers but some in the industry have claimed the law has made things more dangerous than ever.

The intention of the law was to end demand, but speaking on Ireland Unfiltered, Kate McGrew of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland said the law has resulted in sex workers being criminalised by proxy.

Supporters say it protects sex workers while reducing the demand for their services by targeting customers.

Critics of the law, such as McGrew, say it is more dangerous as sex workers are now unable to work in pairs under the new law - which many would have done for safety prior to its introduction - for fear of being charged with working in a brothel.

It also places barriers to sex workers reporting crimes to members of the Gardaí.

“A worker is less likely [to report violence],” McGrew said.

“Even if she’s working alone now, she would be less likely to report violence or interact with support services or Gardaí because now at the very least she doesn’t want people to know that she is a sex worker because she would understandably be afraid that even if she approached a Gardaí as a victim of crime that the guards are going to go 'Hmmm, hey but now we know where to go to arrest clients.'


“That’s one small example. There are many other ways to sort of describe how basically the worker is sort of squeezed by this law. The client calls the shots. He says, ‘I don’t want to come to your workplace. I’m afraid that your place is under surveillance.’

“I mean they are encouraging Gardaí to do what they’re doing which is surveil our homes and workspaces. So he says 'I don’t want to go there, you have to come to me' which is less safe for us to be doing outcalls.”

Reported incidences of crime and violent crime against sex workers have risen, according to, an organisation that collates reports from those working in the sex industry in Ireland.

Comparing the two years before and the two years after the new law came in, crime has increased 90% and violent crime specifically has increased 92%.

You can listen to Kate McGrew's full interview on Ireland Unfiltered below.


Ireland Unfiltered, brought to you in partnership with Carlsberg Unfiltered, will be available everywhere you get your podcasts and on YouTube every Tuesday.