We have the law. Now we need the resources and supports to help women exit prostitution say campaigners.

PRESS RELEASE : 4 March 2020

MeToo movement is ignoring women in prostitution as victims and survivors of male violence, rape and harassment, says activist, author and survivor Rachel Moran at campaign launch

Advocates at the launch of a new campaign called Prostitution – We Don’t Buy It, which exposes the truth about prostitution in Ireland, said that it was vital that the necessary resources and supports were now put in place to make the law that criminalises the purchase of sex more effective.

A new Red C poll, commissioned by the We Don’t Buy It campaign, shows that the vast majority of Irish people know that purchasing sex is a criminal offence, with 64% agreeing that Gardaí need more resources to deal with the issue.

However, Mary Crilly, Director of the Sexual Violence Centre Cork, one of the organisations supporting We Don’t Buy It, said that policing, while critical, was just one part of the picture. She said that there was also an urgent need for an increase in resources to support women who wish to exit prostitution. These would include protection and assistance programmes for all women impacted by commercial sexual exploitation. Recent research shows that up to 90% of women in prostitution want to exit but don’t have viable and safe alternatives.

“The commencement of legislation which made the purchase of sex illegal in Ireland was a huge step forward,” she said. “We know that one of the most effective deterrents for men who pay for sexual access is arrest and prosecution. We also know that the law is supported by the majority of Irish people.”

“We need more resources to increase enforcement,” she said. “However, to ensure that we follow through on the ‘equality approach’ fully it is also critical that we put in place a nation-wide programme of supports to help women exit from prostitution. This would include resources for specialist legal representation, accommodation, redress, migration safety and advice and access to viable employment, for example.”

Rachel Moran, activist, author and survivor of prostitution in Dublin, said that there was a blindspot when it came to the rights of women in prostitution within the #MeToo movement.

“You simply can’t buy consent. It’s that straight forward,” she said. “The delusion that sexual harassment, violence and rape is consensual in prostitution is so damaging and is the very thing that maintains an industry that is based on human entrapment, coercion and misery.”

“This reality is being ignored for the most part within the #MeToo movement,” she continued. “In the global conversation about sexual harassment and sexual predation, brought to the fore again last week with the Harvey Weinstein conviction, women in prostitution are split off from other women, as undeserving victims and survivors of male violence.”

Mary Crilly also said that it was important that there was additional state support for awareness and education so that people can be supported to stand up and speak out about prostitution.

The Red C poll also revealed that when asked what they might do if a friend was to purchase sexual access, over 1 in 5 people said that they would do nothing, rising to over 1 in 3 men. Only 5% said that they would seek information on the issue of prostitution. 40% responded that they would seek to dissuade the friend from purchasing sex. This was driven strongly by women.

There are an estimated 1,000 women in prostitution in Ireland. The majority are migrants who have been trafficked and exploited, a significant number as children under 18. An analysis of “escorts” advertised on line, shows that over 95% are advertised as foreign nationals. On average, the analysis found that over half of the women are moved at least weekly revealing the level of organisation and control within prostitution. The majority of women in prostitution in Ireland experience physical, sexual and psychological abuse – much of this is at the hands of men who pay to abuse them.

We don’t buy it is a hard-hitting campaign that is based on the testimonies of women in prostitution. It is supported by a number of organisations working together to end prostitution and sex trafficking in Ireland including Ruhama, an NGO that works with women affected by prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, SPACE International (Survivors of Prostitution Abuse Calling for Enlightenment), which was co-founded by Dublin survivor Rachel Moran, the Men’s Development Network (MDN) and the Sexual Violence Centre Cork. We Don’t Buy It was first launched in 2015.

For more information contact: Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207