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Press Release

Expert groups ‘deeply disappointed’ with new laws affecting human rights of sex workers

By 14 February 2017February 10th, 2020No Comments

Amnesty International Ireland | HIV Ireland | Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) | Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI)

Four human rights organisations working with vulnerable groups in Ireland have expressed grave concerns with Part IV of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015, which was passed in the Seanad this evening (Tuesday 14.02.17). Part IV criminalises the purchase of sexual services and increases penalties for aspects of the work.

Niall Mulligan, Executive Director of HIV Ireland: “We advised strongly against this course of action, which goes against the expert opinion of the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS. Criminalisation of the purchase of sex drives sex work further underground, forcing workers to take more risks and work less safely. This in turn risks increasing the rate of HIV transmission. With new HIV diagnoses averaging almost 10 per week, this law will compound what is already a growing HIV crisis in Ireland.”

Edel McGinley, Director of MRCI: “We came out against this law after long consideration, and it is deeply disappointing that it passed today. It will not protect the most vulnerable – migrants, asylum seekers, refugees doing survival sex work. Furthermore, it promotes harmful stigmatisation and obstructs access to justice. We know from our decade of work on human trafficking and forced labour that this approach will not help victims of trafficking.”

Broden Giambrone, Chief Executive of TENI: “Trans people enter the sex industry for a variety of reasons, most commonly because they live in a transphobic society and their economic opportunities are limited due to structural barriers. Criminalising the purchase of sex will not make these barriers go away; it will only further limit the options of a vulnerable population.”

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland: “After two years of research and investigation, Amnesty International adopted a global position in favour of the decriminalisation of sex work and against the Nordic model. Our research highlighted the dangers of criminalising any aspect of consensual sex work, as evidenced from Argentina, Hong Kong, Norway, and Papua New Guinea. The Norway evidence shows that criminalising the purchase of sex does not fulfil its intended purpose of reducing prostitution and, more importantly, is not an effective way to protect sex workers.”

The groups welcomed the last-minute inclusion of a three-year review and limited decriminalisation of street sex workers, following extensive lobbying by the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) and others.



Aoife Murphy, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI):