Department of Justice rejects SWAI from accessing emergency funding

Following a report that the Department of Justice denied SWAI from accessing emergency funding, many queer allies voiced their support for the service.

A person holding a red umbrella by the sea, the red umbrella has become a symbol for SWAI who recently denied emergency funding

The Department of Justice has denied Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) from accessing emergency funding.

After the Department of Justice gave emergency funding to the ‘End Demand’ organisation, SWAI sent an inquiry in regards to availing of this financial support. However, the reply came with an ultimatum as it reads, “If your organisation considers that you do share our understanding of prostitution as inherently exploitative of vulnerable people, then it is of course open to you to submit a formal application for funding.”

In the reply, a Department spokesperson further stated, “I want to make it clear that funding is not available for NGOs whose objectives and philosophy is opposed to these values and principles.”

As reported by the Irish Examiner, SWAI Director Kate McGrew responded to the Department of Justice by stating, “We were the one place sex workers got financial assistance during the pandemic, as sex workers were explicitly excluded from DoJ funding and from PUP payments. This is what it looks like when the economic activity you rely on for survival is refused to being recognized as work.”

In the Irish Examiner report, a spokesman for the Department of Justice said, “Funding is made available for projects that are aligned with wider Government policies. The Department’s understanding of organised prostitution in Ireland is also informed by strong evidence from An Garda Síochána that this activity is inextricably linked with organised crime involved in human trafficking.”

On World Day Against Trafficking, SWAI released a written statement highlighting how Irish authorities are not utilising the best weapon against sex trafficking, which is sex workers themselves. Over the years, the organisation has been calling out policies that are not drawing from the voices of those it will affect. 

Since SWAI’s inception, it has served to amplify the voices of sex workers upon a legislative and social level as well as ensuring a safer work environment. Amid a nationwide lockdown, many people in this profession were left struggling with a major loss in income. 

McGrew further shared, “Though even a global pandemic could not eradicate the sex industry when some workers faced a decrease in clients, there was no support whatsoever from the State. We were forced to crowdfund during this emergency, to help workers with small payments to help flatten the curve and to cushion the financial blow of lockdown, so that sex workers didn’t have to risk their health by going back to work.”

Following the report that SWAI were denied emergency funding by the Department of Justice, people voiced their outrage on Twitter. MPOWER Founder Adam Shanely wrote, “SWAI Ireland do stellar work supporting and giving voice to sex workers while advocating for changes to systems and laws that can make sex work safer. Sex workers must be central in development of policy which will impact their lives – that requires funding!”

Republic of Shame author Caelainn Hogan said, “A sex workers rights group is denied access to government funding unless it accepts that ‘prostitution is inherently exploitative of vulnerable people’. Funding is instead given to religious orders that ran Magdalene Laundries and industrial schools.”

One person posted, “The issue here is not so much that SWAI Ireland would not concede that sex work can be inherently exploitative of vulnerable people but rather with the “government policy” that goes on to ‘fix’ that same issue by taking a wrecking ball to sex workers’ incomes and safety.”

Queer Greens wrote on Twitter, “Hopefully this is a decision the government can undo. SWAI Ireland do great work to help sex workers and advocate for necessary changes to appalling laws, such a response to a basic request is completely unwarranted.”

Despite State financial support being denied, singer FKA Twigs has recently launched a fundraising campaign as a way of alleviating these financial pressures. On her Instagram, she wrote, “There’s a bigger journey in challenging public attitudes, tackling stigma, and fighting for rights and protections – but today I’m inviting you to join me in helping with cash donations.”

SWAI are also calling for allies to take part in a Department of Justice survey in relation to a review of the Sex Work Law.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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