To combat sex trafficking in Ireland, sex workers should be included in the conversation

On World Day Against Trafficking, Sex Workers Alliance Ireland share how the Irish government is not utilising its best weapon against sex trafficking.

A woman stands silhouetted by the sunset

Today on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Sex Workers Alliance Ireland have released a statement describing how the Irish authorities are not utilising the best weapon against sex trafficking in particular – sex workers themselves.

Director of SWAI, Kate McGrew, shared, “This is an opportunity for policymakers in this country to listen to current sex workers about how the decriminalisation of sex work will keep everyone safer, including those who have been trafficked.”

McGrew continued, “Globally, sex work prohibitionists have been successful in conflating all sex work as trafficking. This, combined with the fact that other forms of labour draw more trafficking victims into Ireland, has meant that resources are being misspent on a strategy of criminalising the purchase of sex that has not been proven to stop trafficking.

“This conflation has also meant that consenting sex workers working together for safety have been caught up in so-called brothel raids. In fact, the only people who have been arrested for brothel-keeping in Ireland have been young, migrant women. The Sexual Offences law 2017 is being applied in a racist way, which has been noted by IHREC (Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission).”

The statement released by SWAI describes; “The best tool the state and Gardaí have to find trafficked victims is un-utilised and even ostracised: sex workers. Criminalisation of any aspect of sex work drives sex work underground, making it more difficult to finding those vulnerable to exploitation, including trafficking victims.

“Data shows that sex workers are extremely unlikely to report to the Gardaí after being victims of a crime. Other avenues of reporting and identification should be available to trafficking victims as recommended by this report. A firewall is needed between immigration and sex crimes so that undocumented people feel safe to report crimes against them without fear of deportation.

“Prevention of trafficking is key to reducing its prevalence. Oppressive border controls and lack of legal migration avenues, as well as poverty and addiction increase trafficking. We must reallocate some of the resources spent campaigning against sex work and “awareness-raising” of trafficking into prevention and poverty alleviation.”

The theme for World Day Against Trafficking 2020 will focus on the first responders to human trafficking. These include people who work in sectors such as identifying, supporting, counselling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of the traffickers.

For more information on Sex Workers Alliance Ireland you can visit here.

For more information on World Day Against Trafficking you can visit here.

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