Conference on sex workers in Cork: 'Clients are supposed to be the ones criminalised but often it is the workers who face consequences'

Conference on sex workers in Cork: 'Clients are supposed to be the ones criminalised but often it is the workers who face consequences'

The Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland (SWAI) is hosting a focus group in Cork

THE Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland (SWAI) is hosting a focus group in Cork, aimed at gathering research on the issues sex workers face.

The research is being conducted by Adeline Berry, who works with SWAI.

The focus group takes place on Saturday, October 19.

According to Berry, sex workers in Ireland are often put in danger.

In 2017, Ireland brought in legislation that criminalised the purchase of sex. The selling of sex was not supposed to be criminalised. However, Berry says this model is harming sex workers.

“The Swedish model was introduced 20 years ago. We hear the same stories over and over, this model has not worked.”

In the 2017 law, ‘brothel keeping’ is defined as more than one sex worker working out of the same property.

She says women often work from the same premises for safety reasons, and now more women are forced to work alone, which is dangerous.

“Clients are supposed to be the ones criminalised, but often it is the workers who face consequences. Recent cases prove this.

“In the summer, two women who worked out of the same apartment for safety were convicted for ‘brothel keeping’ and sentenced to nine months in prison. Their proceeds were confiscated. One of them was pregnant too.

“Now, they have a criminal record, so it will be harder for them to get out of sex work, as employers will not hire them.”

Trust in the gardaí among sex workers is very low, according to Adeline.

“It’s at 1% according to research conducted by UglyMugs, a sex work advocacy service. People are scared to report assaults to Gardaí. This is bad because when sex workers and Gardaí work together, dangerous men can be put behind bars.

“This was shown when a dangerous predator was jailed for 20 years in July, after he raped two migrant sex workers at knifepoint. They went to the Gardaí and this resulted in him being put behind bars.

“This man was targeting migrant sex workers working together because he knew they’d be scared to report the assault, and might not be believed.”

Marginalised people are most vulnerable when it comes to sex work, according to Berry.

“Many trans people end up doing sex work because they can’t get a job anywhere else. No one will hire them. I know brilliant coders, who can’t get a job in the tech industry just because they are trans.

“Migrant women who engage in sex work are often at risk of being deported too.”

Berry believes the law needs to change.

“It is unrealistic to say we are going to end demand by criminalising the purchase of sex.

“We need complete decriminalisation.”

Those interested in participating in the focus group can contact Adeline on
theadelineberry@gmail.com.

The research is being conducted in collaboration with HIV Ireland.

Sex workers in the Cork area who need support can contact SWAI on 085 8249305 or info@swai.eu.

More in this section

Sponsored Content