Call to criminalise buyers of sex

The Dáil should take the lead of the Northern Ireland Assembly and criminalise those who pay for sex, a leading charity that deals with exploited women has said. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015, introduced in the North following Lord Maurice Morrow’s Bill and supported 81-10 in Stormont, includes a clause making the purchase of sexual services illegal. 

Gerardine Rowley, Communications and Policy Manager with Ruhama, told The Irish Catholic that the Northern legislation is a model for the kind of legislation the Dublin-based charity would support.

Praising the “holistic” approach to prostitution taken in the act, which focuses on demand by criminalising those who would pay for sex while decriminalising those involved in prostitution, Ms Rowley said she believed “Northern Ireland has taken the lead” in combatting the exploitation of women.

It was, she said, for Ireland’s Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, to follow suit with a similar law, building on the heads of a bill published in November but amending aspects of the scheme. 

“We need to repeal the offence of soliciting to sell sex,” said Ms Rowley, “so that women are no longer criminalised”. 

Pointing out that the 1993 Sexual Offences Act made soliciting to sell sex in a public place a criminal offence, she added that “to follow the North, it’s important that we don’t continue to criminalise those who sell sex in the street, who are often the most vulnerable”.