Amnesty Ireland rejects calls to criminalise purchase of sex

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Amnesty International Ireland has called on Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to scrap proposals to criminalise the purchase of sex through the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015.

In a submission to the Department of Justice and Equality, the human rights organisation said the Government should consider “laws and policies which respect the agency of sex workers and guarantee individuals who undertake sex work do so voluntarily and in safe conditions, free from exploitation, and are able to stop doing sex work when and if they choose”.

In doing so, it said it “does not endorse or encourage sex work” but is “solely concerned with the protection of sex workers’ human rights”.

Amnesty has also urged Ms Fitzgerald to use the bill to repeal the existing offences of soliciting, loitering and brothel keeping.

Its submission goes on to say the “decriminalisation of consensual adult sex work is a vital first step in preventing human rights violations against sex workers and an essential component of states’ wider response to the abuse and exploitation they often experience”.

Dublin solicitor Wendy Lyon, who specialises in sexual, reproductive and maternity rights, told Irish Legal News that Amnesty’s intervention was “welcome news”.

She added: “It’s entirely in line with human rights standards that have been set by international bodies and I hope that it would give other organisations, who may feel the same way but have been reluctant to speak out, the courage to do so.”

The submission has also been welcomed by Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI).

Kate McGrew, SWAI co-ordinator, said: “Criminalising sex work does not make it safer. As Amnesty Ireland has so clearly outlined in its submission, it is only with full decriminalisation that the human rights of sex workers can be protected.

“There is no evidence criminalisation lowers the number of people engaged in sex work or reduces the number of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. In fact there is mounting evidence that criminalisation makes things far more dangerous and difficult for workers.”

Share icon
Share this article: