‘If Consent Is Bought, It Is Not Freely Chosen’


Senator Ivana Bacik

Brian Dineen takes issue with Mia de Faoite’s article supporting the 2017 Irish law criminalising the purchase of sex.

However, he has missed her crucial point about decriminalisation of the (mostly women) sellers of sex.

It is true that the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 did not repeal some ancillary offences that can criminalise those engaged in organised prostitution or in pimping, such as the offences of brothel-keeping or of living off the earnings of a prostitute.

Most rational people would agree that these clearly exploitative behaviours should remain criminal offences.

But the 2017 Act did repeal the critical provision in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 under which many individual women had been prosecuted for the offence of offering their services as a prostitute in a street or public place.

This change has effectively decriminalised the practice of selling sex in public, as we suggested on the Oireachtas Justice Committee which recommended the introduction of the 2017 law.

Mr Dineen also suggests that the criminalisation of the (almost invariably) men who buy sex has led to increased violence against women engaged in prostitution.

However, there is no evidence for this assertion.

Indeed, on the Oireachtas Justice Committee we heard strong evidence from Sweden that criminalising buyers can have a significant effect on reducing demand for prostitution and thereby reducing the harms caused to women through prostitution.

Mia de Faoite and others have spoken powerfully from their own personal experience about these harms, and about the grim reality of selling sex; it is inherently dangerous.

That is why, as legislators, we sought to tackle harm through reducing demand.

Our law, like the 1999 Swedish law, is also premised upon the core principle of equality.

Laws that facilitate the purchase of sex undermine women’s equality by enabling men to buy sexual consent.

But if consent is bought, it is not freely chosen. Those who take issue with our 2017 law tend to overlook that reality.

Senator Ivana Bacik,
Seanad Éireann,
Leinster House,
Dublin 2.

Criminalising the purchase of sex (Irish Times letters page)



Sex Workers Alliance Ireland tweetz:

We are looking for sex workers to participate in a study into the lived experiences of sex workers in the Republic of Ireland in relation to prostitution law, conducted by SWAI.

Please email linda@swai.eu if you are interested in talking to us

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland

Previously: “It Is An Extremely Dangerous Piece Of Legislation”

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9 thoughts on “‘If Consent Is Bought, It Is Not Freely Chosen’

  1. eoin

    Didn’t the North’s Assembly meet with sex workers when it was considering similar legislation to our own which outlawed the purchase of sex? Hasn’t the North introduced near identical legislation to that introduced here in 2017? Who can forget the memorable exchanges?

    “Mr Wells: It is important that we establish the nature of UglyMugs.ie. I understand that your office is in London.
    Ms Smith: I do not have an office.
    Mr Wells: But you are based in London.
    Ms Smith: I do not want to answer any personal questions because of the security threats.
    Mr Wells: There are nine million people in London. I think that it will be reasonably safe for you to tell us where the office — not you, personally — is based.
    Ms Smith: There is no office for UglyMugs.ie.
    Mr Wells: OK, so there is no office. Who funds the work of UglyMugs.ie?
    Ms Smith: There is no funding. We do not have things like offices; it is a website.
    Mr Wells: You have a website, which is quite detailed. Who funds that?
    Ms Smith: A website, as you may know, is a very cheap thing to run. At the moment, I fund the website personally.
    Mr Wells: OK. Who is Audrey Rita Campbell?”


    1. eoin

      Also, if you’re an independent sex worker in Ireland today, you might think twice about answering the call above and making contact with the SWAI. After all, don’t they mostly represent the interests of a Spanish-based organised crime group? If you are still working in what has become a more precarious field after the 2017 legislation, you probably have a tight client list and go to some lengths to vet new clients. Do you really want to alert these people to let them know who and where you are?

  2. SOMK

    “But if consent is bought, it is not freely chosen.”

    To regurgitate points made by sex worker activists and echo Wendy Lyons, the problem with sex work, isn’t the “sex” part, it’s the “work” part. People use sex work as the ultimate stigma, “if you didn’t have that job you’d be selling yourself on the street”, making it a stigma and assuming it to be a stigma*, doesn’t help, it hinders, it puts people lives and safety at risk, it’s incredibly irresponsible and someone like Bacik who REALLY should know better. If the clients can’t openly purchase it, then it stands to reasons they have to purchase it hidden away, which increases the danger to sex workers, this is fairly basic stuff, it’s not obscure, I’ve heard it made a number of times in the Irish media. The problem isn’t sex the problem is work, having to earn a wage (usually at the whim of low-level sociopathic middle management you’d cross seas to avoid in reality) in order to have basic human dignity. If you can’t sell something then you don’t own it. She is not arguing for autonomy, she is arguing for lawmakers having a given right to interfere with the bodily sovereignty of it’s citizens, which should be behind us by now.

    *a stigma curiously neither workers on stud farms nor in fertility clinics seem to suffer

    1. Cian

      “But if consent is bought, it is not freely chosen.”

      Does this apply to all personal services? When I paid a plumber €65 to fix my taps – was this non-consensual because I had to pay him? Was this slave-labour?

  3. bisted

    …Ivana Bacik is always eloquent, passionate and compelling in her arguments…until you realise that she can be equally eloquent and compassionate expousing the opposite point of view…sometimes without taking breath…another labour grandee with her eye on the Aras…

  4. Termagant

    Dunnes are always hiring, as an alternative like. Not bad hours, lots of sitting down if you get on a till.

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