The Turn Off The Red Light campaign in 2012 calling for criminalising the purchase of sex
Last Friday, the Leinster Leader newspaper reported that two female sex workers, one of whom is pregnant, had been jailed for nine months by Judge Desmond Zaidan at Naas District Court the previous day.
They had been charged with keeping or running a brothel – an offence under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993 which was maintained when the Act was amended in 2017, despite the then Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald being called on by several politicians to remove it.
The newspaper reported that the court heard gardai raided the Newbridge apartment in which the women lived last November after it had been under surveillance for “some time”.
In a previous court appearance, the court heard the raid was part of An Garda Siochána’s Operation Quest.
There were no clients at the property when the house was raided.
The newspaper reported:
No significant money was found at the scene either.
“Was business that bad?” Judge Desmond Zaidan asked.
“It was early in the night,” Sgt Jacob told the court.
…Their solicitor told the court that the women hope to return to their native Romania once the trial is concluded and to avoid bringing any embarrassment to their families. And gardai were satisfied that this was the case.
Their solicitor said that the women had a sum of money available that could be paid to a charity.
But Judge Desmond Zaidan was not inclined to give them this opportunity. “They weren’t forced into this position.”
The newspaper reported that the woman who is pregnant has lodged an appeal and has been released on bail.
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 was put forward to reform Ireland’s laws regarding prostitution and it was signed into law in 2017.
In relation to the law on brothel keeping, a debate in the Dáil in November 2016 heard Green Party TD Catherine Martin say:
“What the Government is proposing is to criminalise the buyer and remove one of the criminal sanctions against solicitation but also to create a new solicitation crime and leave brothel keeping as a criminal act. The Nordic approach has received a significant level of criticism, particularly when It comes to the health and the safety of sex workers.
“Significant questions remain about the Nordic model. The Green Party’s key concern with it is that a sufficient evaluation has not been carried out upfront to show whether the changes brought in had any impact on the health and well being of sex workers. Stories are emerging of sex workers driven further underground and, therefore, out of safety in order to protect the identities of their clients. The latter means that they place themselves at even greater risk.
“The UK is currently revisiting its approach. The select Home Affairs Committee has said that the Home Office should immediately introduce legislation to allow for solicitation by sex workers and to change brothel-keeping laws to allow workers share premises so that they are safer.”
Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said:
“When two or more prostitutes choose to work from the same location for safety, they should not be prosecuted for brothel keeping unless there is clear evidence that one is profiting from the work of others.
“As the law still stands, if two prostitutes work together, they can be accused of brothel-keeping. Are we going to force a situation where women working in the sex trade will be forced to work alone in order to get around this issue and to avoid prosecution under this legislation, obviously putting themselves at further risk? There are significant issues here.”
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger said:
“We will also table an amendment to exclude the criminalisation of two women working together in a brothel, not pimping, one not benefiting from the proceeds of the earnings of the other. Sex workers should not be subject to harassment and prosecution and it is utterly backward that the Tánaiste has not taken these amendments on board.”
Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly said:
“The work by the barrister, Michael Lynn, and commissioned by Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, SWAI, is an incredibly well-grounded, academic and research-based piece of work in this area. He evolved into a position of coming to the conclusion that the Bill would violate the human rights of sex workers.
“His key points on that were, first, the lack of assessment of the real impact of the Swedish model, the fact that the penalties against brothel keeping and so on are likely to contravene the human rights of sex workers, and he was very critical of the fact that there is no review in the legislation.”
In December 2016, Ms Fitzgerald told the Select Committee on Justice and Equality debate, when the 2015 Bill was at committee stage:
“The effect of the amendments, in reality, would be to decriminalise brothels in certain circumstances. I am concerned that decriminalisation of brothel-keeping would create a legal loophole that would be ripe for exploitation by the organised crime gangs involved in the trafficking and exploitation of women involved in prostitution.
“Women would come under pressure to claim that they were working independently when that was not the case and the Garda would be limited in the actions it could take to close brothels and disrupt the activities of pimps and criminal gangs.”
Further to this…
Solicitor Wendy Lyon has tweeted her thoughts…
Related: Brothel laws criminalising sex workers: a feature, not a bug (Wendy Lyon, Feminist Ire)
Previously: A ‘Mass Surveillance On Sex Workers’? (April 2019)
Stopping At Red (September 2012)
Turn Off The Red, Blue And White Light (November 2013)
“Prostitution Is Messy, It’s Regrettable But It’s A Fact Of Life” (November 2014)
Hoor We To Judge? (April 2017)