A ‘Mass Surveillance On Sex Workers’?


An Garda Síochána released a statement yesterday stating 36 people were stopped and spoken to by gardai “arising from suspicion of having purchased sexual services from an individual involved in prostitution” over the course of the weekend.

It stated:

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 criminalises the purchase of sexual services and the soliciting or purchasing of sex from a trafficked person.

On the 26th, 27th and 28th of April 2019, An Garda Síochána conducted intelligence-led operations across six of its divisions, nationally, urban and rural (DMR North, DMR East, DMR South Central, Wexford, Louth and Kildare) to target the demand for prostitution and to enforce legislation which criminalises the purchase of sexual services.

These Days of Action were coordinated by the ‘Operation Quest’ team at the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, in liaison with local Detective Units.

During the course of this intelligence-led operation, thirty-six individuals where stopped and spoken to by members of An Garda Síochána, arising from suspicion of having purchased sexual services from an individual involved in prostitution.

A number of files will now be prepared for forwarding to the Director of Public Prosecutions, with a view to establishing if any criminal prosecution should be initiated, arising from the Days of Action.

This operation reinforces An Garda Síochána’s commitment to target the demand for prostitution and to protect vulnerable persons, including victims of human trafficking involved in prostitution.

In response, the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland has noted the following…

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30 thoughts on “A ‘Mass Surveillance On Sex Workers’?

  1. Dr.Fart MD

    wonder if theyre cranking down on escort ireland? hope not, i use that a lot and it’s a legal way around the whole thing. I always ask the girls if they’re trafficked, of course they’ll say no but I try sniff out if theyre lying, i offer to take them away from it all and look after them if they are. so far it doesnt seem any are. I think its the more underground set-ups dealing in trafficked women. the whole sex work thing is such a taboo subject in ireland, they should legalise it, make safe houses and ya have to get certs n’stuff, and then have legal brothels, checked by police regularly.

    1. johnny

      -that particular fantasy is know as “Pretty Woman” the kind hearted hooker and the rich doctor who saves her:)

      1. Dr.Fart MD

        he wasn’t a doctor, he was a gun-ship salesman. and its not really a fantasy, i wouldnt be falling in love, i’d just let her sleep in the bedsit in the garden, we wouldnt even be in each others lives, but i would expect a BJ about once a week. you may say that’s kind of trafficking too, but she’d have her own well maintained bedsit in the leafy suburbs of dublin 6, i’d keep her fridge stocked for her, she wouldnt have any bills unless she decided to get the internet or something. and im sure Maeve would allow her use the spare car on weekends if she wanted to go to a shopping centre, or to howth for chips. it would be a damn sight better than anything previous.

        1. johnny

          -oh so your looking get married,is English required or will the international language of love overcome any language barriers -kudos on the trivia re Pretty Woman-impressed:)

          1. Brother Barnabas

            I’d guess ‘Maeve’ is his wife

            he’s really just looking to help someone get their life back on track for nothing (other than occasional oral sex) in return

          2. Dr.Fart MD

            oh marriage? no no no, Maeve is my wife and shall always be my wife. No, if the trafficked person in question were to avail of my offer, we would keep as much distance as possible so as to not aggrivate my marriage or indeed upset the children. She would be self-contained in the bed-sit, once i remove the current student of course, the sexless wench. And as i said, i wouldn’t expect anything in return apart from a BJ from time to time. (if any trafficked ladies are reading, please get in touch, particularly any of a spanishy persuasion)

          3. Nigel

            I find this hard to believe. You’re married with children and are willing to provide a safe place for a trafficked sex worker in return for oral sex instead of a few hours chilldminding at the weekend preferably in the middle of the day so you can have a quet nap? Fake news.

      2. Cian

        If you watch Pretty Woman backwards Richard Gere stops kissing his wife on the mouth so she returns her nice clothes and becomes a prostitute.

    2. Barry the Hatchet

      “i offer to take them away from it all and look after them if they are” This is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever heard.

  2. eoin

    Fupp off “Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland” and take the “Heroin Sellers Alliance of Ireland” with you. You’re both promoting illegal activity.

    As for Uglymugs.ie whose research is cited above as support for claims, read this little bit, from the Northern Ireland Assembly when they were debating the criminalisation of the purchase of sex, about Uglymugs and who controls it. (you might skip the opening statement and go down to Mr Wells questions, it’s enlightening)


    1. curmudgeon

      Yeah I think the problem is the illegality ie the law itself. Are you saying we should not be allowed to question the laws we are ruled under?

    2. missred

      Laws are man-made things Eoin, they’re not biblical commandments. Their statement clearly outlines why the law is not working. It can be changed if the people affected are listened to.

      1. eoin

        It’s a law which was introduced in May 2017 after much debate and committee hearings. It echoes similar legislation introduced in Northern Ireland in 2014, again, with much debate and committee hearings.The legislation was supported by the vast majority of our elected reps, left and right, in Ireland, north and south. I think it’s sound law, it just needs to be enforced.

      1. eoin

        It’s 2019 Millie, most people couldn’t care less about what goes on between consenting adults.

        On the other hand, I hope people care about kidnapping, assault and rape of girls and women. And because a punter can’t tell the difference between a consenting adult and a trafficked victim, we brought in a law to blanket outlaw the purchase of sex; that limits the freedoms of consenting adults, which is bad, but it stops the barbarity of people trafficking.

        Seriously, take a look at the Q&As in the link above from when the North introduced the same legislation, look at Mr Wells questions and answers. These aren’t “happy hookers”, they represent a massive enterprise, and they really don’t want to tell you the truth about that organised crime group.

        1. Cian

          yeah, but no.

          This law just doesn’t “stop the barbarity of people trafficking”. It just pushes prostitution further underground and makes it more dangerous for women. It means there are fewer willing to do it, and that makes it more lucrative for the traffickers.

        2. curmudgeon

          Literally the reason we need to regulate it as we do with every other industry, PSA licensed drivers, certified Diving instructors, Doctors with actual medical degrees. You use the power of the law to make sure you know who you are dealing with is legit and not dodgy or in this case illegally trafficked. Thai prostitutes get tested for STD’s and have to take a test weekly and present that cert to the client, similar for porn stars in LA.

          So Eoin it looks like this trafficked problem can and indeed has been legislated away in other countries – we just have to apply the law intelligently instead of just making these things illegal and hope they go away. Hmm reminds me of the “war on drugs”.

  3. curmudgeon

    I heard a statement and “facts” from Ruhama read out on radio twice today, and nothing from SWAI. But then again the government doesnt fund SWAI but its funds Ruhama via Dept of Health, HSE, South Inner City Local Drugs Task Force & Dept. Justice – Anti Human Trafficking Unit

    I’d like to remind everyone that Ruhama is the rebranding of The Good Shepherd Sisters & The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Magdalene Laundry infamy.

    1. Rob_G

      I always find that mental – the nuns that locked up women for years telling us about their ‘concerns’ about these girls, and the fact that anyone gives them any airtime.

      1. johnny

        -the catholic church ran the biggest brothels in Ireland for years,abusing women and children under the guise of spirituality with the tacit consent of the irish govt and irish people.

        “The first extensive report on abuse of women in the church was in 1994 by an Irish nun, Sister Maura O’Donohue. Her report covered more than 20 countries — mostly in Africa, but also Ireland, Italy, the Philippines and the United States.

        In the report, O’Donohue, who died in 2015, linked sexual abuse of nuns in Africa to the AIDS epidemic: Religious sisters were considered less likely to carry the virus.

        She cited a 1988 case from Malawi, where a bishop dismissed the leaders of a women’s religious order because they complained that 29 nuns had been made pregnant by local priests. She also reported that a priest arranged for a nun to have an abortion; the nun died during the abortion, and the priest then officiated at her funeral.”


  4. Zaccone

    Given the very obvious example of pre/during/post-prohibition of alcohol in the US its a wonder that 90 years later moralistic governments still think outlawing things people are still going to partake in will work. All it does is make things more unsafe, cause more deaths, and divert more funds to organized crime.

    As with most of the ridiculous moral crusader wars the correct answer to this is “decriminalize and regulate”. Much like drugs, much like as it was with alcohol in the 1930s, etc.

  5. john windsor

    The Swedish or Nordic model was first implemented in 1999 and is spreading rapidly. Within Europe, it has been introduced in Ireland, Northern Ireland, France, Canada, Israel, Norway, and Sweden. It reports to decriminalize the selling of sexual services, yet criminalizes the buying (clients) and facilitation of sex work (third parties). It is often said to be the most effective way to reduce prostitution while protecting women, whom it frames as victims. A vast body of reports has been published on the problems with this approach.9 In fact, it does not help sex workers. It still renders their work highly dangerous and forces them underground. it increases stigma,It puts them at high risk of becoming homeless or being blackmailed by their lessor (who could be charged with pimping). They are also put at risk of being prosecuted themselves when they work or live together since they can be accused of ‘pimping’ each other. Neither can they hire a secretary or security services.
    There are other ways

    Two other models – ‘decriminalization’ and ‘legalization’ – ­are often used interchangeably, despite important differences in meaning.

    Legalization involves various forms of state control over sex work through regulations that are usually much greater than the control over most other categories of employment. This often results in the marginalization of vulnerable people. These controls might vary, but they typically include registration, regular compulsory health tests and the designation of potential work areas (outside of which sex work is illegal). These requirements mean that many sex workers are still criminalized, since they fail to fulfil the sometimes impossible requirements.

    In the Netherlands, migrants are not deemed eligible for sex work licenses, which forces them into illegality. In Nevada10 sex workers are only allowed to work in licensed brothels, must undergo compulsory weekly STD testing, can be convicted for felony if they are HIV-positive, and are often required to live on the compound of the brothel and pay the owners between 40–50 percent of their earnings, on top of room and board expenses. Many of the conditions imposed on sex workers within the legalization framework are deemed to controvert human rights and civil liberties, and workers are often subjected to poor or abusive working conditions.

    It is very important to point out that no single measure will eradicate violence and abuses against sex workers. The model sex workers advocate is full decriminalization. This means that no one can be arrested or criminalized for selling, purchasing or facilitating sexual services.11 Here, sex workers can work as freelancers, be hired by someone else or join a cooperative. They can also access social security benefits, including health insurance. This human rights-centred approach (as opposed to crime-focused approaches) allows for the development of measures that increase the wellbeing of sex workers and reduce violence against them, both from clients and the authorities.

    Legalization creates narrow regulatory regimes based on concerns and objectives such as the health of clients, taxation, or public morality; decriminalization, on the other hand, means the removal of criminal and administrative penalties that apply to sex work, allowing it to be governed by labour laws and protections, similarly to other jobs.12

    Amnesty International (AI)13 and the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)14 are two international organizations focusing on human rights15 that, having undertaken extensive research16 are now supporting decriminalization. Like all groups or organizations that support decriminalization, they have to be wary of false dichotomies and a handful of myths.

    Despite regular accusations, none of these organizations supports the trafficking or enslavement of people. AI, GAATW and sex workers-led organizations want to end to trafficking, however not at the cost of the human rights, let alone the lives of sex workers. The principle of ‘do no harm’ means that, in order to protect a group of vulnerable individuals (i.e. trafficked people), one cannot violate the rights of another vulnerable group (i.e. sex workers).
    Sex wars

    Though it may be hard to believe for the average citizen who has been bombarded with anti-(sex-) trafficking propaganda, most trafficked people are not enslaved in the sex industry. There are, by the best estimates, 40.3 million people worldwide forced into labour in unacceptable conditions.17 Of these, around 90 per cent are forced into occupations such as construction, farming, mining, manufacturing and domestic work. However, to our knowledge, there are no groups working for the abolition of all types of domestic work, despite the high rates of abuse and exploitation proven to exist in the sector. Anti-(sex-) trafficking18 measures are not, therefore, about stopping exploitation, as Nandita Sharma and Kamala Kempadoo, for example, have pointed out.19 As state policies, they are about border and immigration control, and for feminists groups about the abolition of prostitution.

    What has been labelled ‘the feminist sex wars’ is in fact a political divide. With the exception of those who take the proposal that all penetration is rape to its logical conclusion and refuse to engage in any form of it,20 most feminists who oppose sex work hold dear a moral hierarchy of sexual interactions – most often favouring the types long ago described by Gayle Rubin as heterosexual, reproductive, non-commercial, monogamous, coupled, vanilla and domestic.21 They see sex work as inherently degrading; a considerable volume of articles approach this topic from a patronizing perspective, detailing the possibilities of a middle-class white woman imagining herself spreading her legs, being penetrated and getting paid for it.22

    However, if one acknowledges the tyranny of patriarchy and the oppression of women, it is not even relevant whether one finds sex work degrading or not. Instead, one can rather focus on what really helps sex workers: decriminalization, harm-reduction and anti-poverty measures. Even if one believes no one would ever choose sex work willingly, one can still invest one’s efforts and resources in creating alternatives, instead of criminalizing or persecuting sex workers.

    Anti-trafficking campaigns do not talk about the ‘collateral damage’23 – the abuses – of the rescue industry. The consequences of current anti-(sex-)trafficking measures are varied and highly problematic: from the diverting of funding to an increase in harassment and rape by the police, to forced labour, imprisonment and border control.24 These measures often increase sex workers’ chances of being abused, exploited and even trafficked – this time for real.

    Sex trafficking exists. And yet awareness campaigns still can be detrimental. They distort the reality in order to grab people’s attention – and donations. They promote sensationalist media coverage25 and feed mass hysteria. They tend to focus exclusively on sex trafficking, ignoring the vast majority of human trafficking that takes place nowadays. They conflate sex trafficking with sex work and increase public and governmental support for anti-trafficking laws which harm sex workers, fail to support trafficked people, and instead are used for border and migration control. The diversion of funds to these rescue campaigns is very harmful, since this funding could be used to support initiatives that improve the living conditions of sex workers and other vulnerable communities.
    Industrial complex

    The rescue industry involves the police, sometimes accompanied by NGOs, who raid brothels or areas of street-based workers and detain everyone in the search for victims of trafficking. Very often, people are detained based on their appearance – a leeway for racial profiling. Often, women are charged simply for possessing condoms,26 which in some parts of the world has driven sex workers to engage in unsafe sex practices. The extreme misogyny in the assumption that a female carrying condoms in public is necessarily a sex worker needs to be emphasized here. Raids and rescue operations deprive sex workers of their autonomy, income and secure working conditions.

    In Cambodia, where the situation has run havoc, arrested sex workers are placed in rehabilitation centres and are forced to stay in shelters and work for free or for the minimum wage in the garment industry.27 This is very same industry that many sex workers try to escape in the first place. Salaries in the garment industry are $61 per month, the minimum wage, and not enough to support a family, whereas an average income in sex work brings in between $120 and $180 per month. The conditions in the ‘rehabilitation’ centres are often similar to those in detention.28

    The ‘unintended consequences’ of criminalization also include police harassment, all the way up to rape. Police are not trained in outreach work and are often violent. A decriminalized framework, on the other hand, allows sex workers to build trusted relationships with state authorities and NGOs and report violence from clients, abuses from employers or the police.29

    Anti-trafficking policies are also used for border and migration control.30 The main priority of most governments is to limit migration, rather than to protect migrants against abuse or exploitation; and to prosecution of traffickers, rather than to safeguard the rights of the people who have been trafficked. People suspected of intending to engage in sex work are often denied visas,31 which is again normally based on their appearance and the prejudice of the official dealing with their case. Deportations32 are dressed up as ‘helping the victims return home’. These cases go unnoticed and uncontested. Trafficked people should undoubtedly be offered the possibility of returning; but after the suffering they have endured, they might also want some sort of legal status in the state that might have been their preferred destination in the first place.

    Obviously, sex trafficking exists. Its victims obviously need support. Sex workers are in a unique position to identify victims of sex trafficking, to reach out to them, to understand the nuances and difficulties of their situations, and to offer solidarity. They are already doing this.33

    Fighting trafficking – all sorts of trafficking – and supporting workers – including sex workers – are not mutually exclusive. It is not fast, nor simple; it is not sexy, and it does not rely on the police. It will not be a right-wing initiative. It is as hard as it is pressing to support those who never benefited from the basic protections of social security, trade unions, and labor rights.

    1. McVitty

      Great post.

      It’s going to be impossible to protect trafficked women or those without legal status. I can see this becoming a hot potato “women’s issue” very quickly with a call for a national referendum to award citizen protections to anyone working in the sex-trade, which could result in escort business growing enormously and in turn, more women seeing the sex trade as a viable life-choice – and with that, the sex-trade itself could proliferate..but through the internet, rather than through the street trade or illegal premises. The policy approach tries to tackle the sex-trade as it is, not where it is going. It’s a tricky pancake and as you pointed out with the Stockholm model, there are knock-on effects….again, I get no sense that anybody is thinking what the sex-trade will look like in 20 years so expect policy mistake after policy mistake, along the road of good intentions.

      It’s the oldest trade in the world but that does not make it acceptable – in terms of how we treat some of the most vulnerable in society. I suspect a Garda unit could do a lot of stamping out if they put the resources on it.

  6. Truth in the News

    To eliminate prostitution is will be necessary to outlaw sex, many tried and all
    failed….even starting with Adam and Eve, what was the forbidden fruit….?

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