Sex workers lives at risk due to bad legislation, says SWAI 7 months ago

Sex workers lives at risk due to bad legislation, says SWAI

The statement comes following a number of recent attacks and burglaries on sex workers.

An Garda Síochána issued an alert on Wednesday to sex workers operating from online sites following a number of attacks and burglaries on workers over the past month.

Gardaí said that there has been seven attacks nationwide on sex workers advertising sexual services on online sites since the middle of October.

Kate McGrew, current sex worker and Director of Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland (SWAI) said on Thursday that sex workers lives are being put at risk due to bad and misguided legislation.

"The increased assaults and robberies on sex workers currently being investigated by gardaí are a direct consequence of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, which specifically prohibits sex workers from working or even living together for safety, so-called brothel-keeping, and makes the consensual purchase of sex a criminal offence", she said.

"The 2017 law, which is due for review in early 2020, should be scrapped. It should be replaced by legislation that decriminalises sex work and to provide labour law, health and safety guarantees instead."

"Under the 2017 legislation, sex workers have faced ever greater physical threats due to increased stigma and isolation. This has directly facilitated the type of attacks now being investigated by Gardaí because criminals can realistically assume that sex workers will be alone and defenceless if attacked.

"If they are working together for safety the criminals know the worker is unlikely to call the Gardaí because they fear being prosecuted for so-called brothel-keeping. These fear are not unfounded since two migrant workers working together for safety were jailed during the summer this year.

"The fact that these attacks are being carried out by gangs of people means that sex workers lives are now at risk from criminals gangs.

"The negative impact of the law is vividly shown by the fact that Gardaí have had to issue the ludicrous assurance that sex workers who have been violently assaulted and robbed will be treated with the ‘utmost sensitivity and confidentiality.’ Such a statement would never need to be issued for any other worker or person subject to violent attacked and theft."

She continued: "It doesn’t have to be like this. In New Zealand sex work is decriminalised. Sex workers can take legal action for assault or exploitation, without being ‘shamed’ for their profession. A similar approach should apply in Ireland.

"We all deserve to be safe and we all should have laws that work to make us safer. Sex workers deserve this too. the egregious waste of Gardaí resources used to prosecute consensual sex work and workers working together for safety could be better used in prosecuting criminals such as these. We have worked previously with Gardaí to successfully prosecute serial rapists in the past.

"We need assurances from the Gardaí that if workers who have been working together for safety are attacked they will not be prosecuted under brothel-keeping laws. We need removal of brothel-keeping laws that mean that workers can work together safety.

"We need to be included in the review of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 and we need sex work fully decriminalised.”

An Garda Síochána can be contacted via the Garda Confidential Number 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station, in relation to these attacks.