HIV Ireland criticises plans to criminalise purchase of sex

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

A voluntary organisation working to improve conditions for people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS has criticised Irish government plans to criminalise the sale of sex.

HIV Ireland, also known as the Dublin Aids Alliance, has said that Section 20 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill could have negative effects on the sexual health of sex workers and wider society.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the proposed law “mirrors the approach adopted in Northern Ireland and other jurisdictions which have seen a reduction in demand and notably, over time, an increase in support for similar laws”.

It has already come under criticism from the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI).

Niall Mulligan, executive director of HIV Ireland, told The Times: “If you criminalise any aspect of sex work, those working in it are less likely to be visible and less likely to come to us for tests. Our worry is that this will impact not only on sex workers, but their clients too.

“This is not what we think may happen, we know it from extensive research. Amnesty International, the UNAids organisation and the World Health Organisation would have similar concerns.

“One of the universal themes in countries where this law has been introduced is that it creates another barrier between sex workers and access to healthcare.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told the newspaper: “This new offence is about targeting the demand which feeds both the trafficking and exploitation of persons for the purpose of prostitution.

“In terms of healthcare, Ireland offers free and confidential sexual health screenings and there is no reason to believe that the extent to which these services are accessed by both those providing and obtaining sexual services would be reduced by the proposal to criminalise the purchase of sexual services.”

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