'We need to be having conversations': Adeline Berry calls on sex workers to have their voices heard in the Swedish Model review

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland and Adeline Berry are calling on sex workers to share their experiences with Irish laws ahead of the Swedish Model review.

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Researcher and artist Adeline Berry calls for action to ensure a safer environment for sex workers in Ireland ahead of the Department of Justice’s review on the Swedish Model. 

In 2017, the Swedish Model was brought into effect in Ireland through the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, which criminalised the purchase of sex rather than the selling of sex. Five months after the Swedish Model was brought into effect, there were 1,635 reports from sex workers concerned about clients on the Ugly Mug app, a 61% increase from the year prior. 

 

Sex worker Berry previously lived abroad in America before moving back to Ireland. Through her experiences, she gained insights into the differing cultures, “I moved to the U.S in 92. And then I worked in the Bible Belt. But coming home and doing sex work in Ireland was actually kind of shocking to see the levels of misogyny are so much higher, and the entitlement and all that. So with the law coming in, violence has skyrocketed.”

Speaking about the impact of the Swedish Model on sex workers in Ireland, Berry shared,  “You’re not in a better situation, you’re just minus an income. It’s like no thoughts were given whatsoever to what would replace this. The demand hasn’t gone away. Clients that would be considered more decent, have become more scarce and the clients that are left have actually felt more emboldened. So [sex workers] are in a more precarious position than they would have been and they are a little more vulnerable.”

In the lead up to the Swedish Model review, Berry alongside Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) are calling on sex workers to share their experiences with the law and Gardaí as part of a submission to the Department of Justice. Over on Twitter, she counts down to the due date with information about how the Act unfairly stigmatises and harms people in this profession.  

Due to the Swedish model, Berry was previously evicted from her home by the Gardaí. Though she does not know the eviction rates before this law went into effect, she has seen a rapid increase since its introduction. She said, “You’re disrupting the lives of those people. And if you don’t have something else in place to make that better or to make up for that, then you’re just leaving devastation in your wake.”

“A lot of sex workers in jail, a lot of sex workers have been arrested, a lot of sex workers have been evicted. That’s the consequences of this law,” Berry continued. 

From Berry’s own experiences and undergrad research into sex work under the Swedish Model, she has seen the breakdown of trust between sex workers and the Gardaí.

She said, “Sex workers are not calling in things they find suspicious because Gardaí have destroyed any kind of a relationship. It’s pretty quick to destroy a relationship but to rebuild it back and get to a place where you regained the trust of people takes a lot more time and effort.”

Regarding changes she would like to see following the Swedish Model review, Berry said, “I would love to see stigma go. We like to tell ourselves we’re so progressive. A lot of our progress is recent so it gives us the illusion we are progressive.When we are not that progressive, we have a lot of stigma.”

Berry further shared, “I grew up with what I was, being an intersex and transgender person and then turning to sex work pretty early, aware that I’m supposed to feel ashamed of these things. But not sure why?”

In regards to the Swedish Model review, Berry expressed optimism that sex workers are being heard during the process, however, remains wary about what changes will be affected by the Department of Justice.

Speaking on the larger impact of restrictive laws, she said, “We just get hurt first. None of us other than the wealthy benefit from this system. So I think it’s very important to share, all of us need to be sharing all of our stories, all of our realities, and we need to be having conversations.”

If you would like to take part in the submission, you can do so at this link. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can email SWAI at [email protected] and they will forward on your submission. The closing date is Friday, September 11.

Berry has also spoke with ACT UP member Luke Toomey about her experiences with sex work in Ireland as part of a radio documentary. You can listen to it at this link.

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