MECPATHS welcomes the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, which criminalises the purchase of sex and decriminalises those selling sex. The provision of the necessary resources to ensure the effective enforcement of this law, and guarantee the protections within it, is fundamental to its success; the law will only be as good as its implementation.
The new Sexual Offences law targets the demand for the purchase of sex by deterring buyers. Decriminalising the seller allows people to exit prostitution without being criminalised and allows them to come forward and seek the assistance and supports that they may require. In Sweden, at least 60% of women in prostitution have availed of the well-funded government exit-strategies and succeeded in exiting prostitution*. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of women in prostitution would not be there if they felt they had other options.
Now in Ireland buying sex is a crime and with the new law in place if someone in a hotel has purchased sex and is using the hotel for this purpose they are committing a crime on the premises.
If hotel staff suspect suspicious activity relating to the purchase of sex or sex trafficking they can report it immediately to the Gardaí and know that the seller of sex or the victim will not be criminalised. In cases of suspected trafficking for sexual exploitation, it is always better to report and be wrong than to let a victim of trafficking walk away and their abuse to continue. Always contact the Gardaí and never try to directly intervene.
* The full Scottish government report on prostitution policies can be seen at www.scottish.parliament.uk