Sex industry exploitation revealed
The Irish Times
Last Updated: Thursday, April 16, 2009, 13:45
Hundreds of women are being exploited in the sex industry in Ireland, with migrant women making up a significant proportion, according to a new report from the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
The report found that more than 100 women and girls have been trafficked through or into Ireland in less than two years.
It also revealed that up to an estimated 1,000 women are working in Irish brothels every day in this country, with migrant women accounting for between 87 and 97 per cent. The women ranged between 18 to 58 years of age, with the average being 25. However, the survey uncovered evidence that girls as young as 16 were being used.
The 102 women and girls who were considered victims of trafficking presented at 10 different services over a 21-month period in 2007 and 2008. However, it is believed that the true figures could be significantly higher.
This report uncovers a heartbreaking and sickening litany of rape, abuse and exploitation for profit of migrant women on Irish soil yet, often, our first official response is to look for breaches of immigration law, rather than addressing the urgent need to provide appropriate services and assistance, said ICI founder Sr Stan Kennedy.
We must put the needs of these women at the heart of our response to tackling trafficking. We have not been doing that appropriately so far.
She called for an urgent and comprehensive response from the Government.
Many of the women involved in indoor prostitution do not fit the official definition of victims of trafficking, yet there is ample evidence that poverty, life circumstances and exploitation have led them to their current situation, said Sr Stan.
The physical and emotional harm these women experience, their real concerns about the health impacts of prostitution and the stories they tell of their unhappiness and abhorrence of their situation, the violence and the threat of violence, should dispel any notion that these women are involved in harmless commercial transactions.
The report found that men who pay for sex tend to be well-paid, highly-educated professionals, with 61 per cent married or in relationships, and the majority were Irish.
ICI chief executive Denise Charlton called for the Government to criminalise the buying of sex in Ireland as part of a concerted effort to end demand.
Men who buy sex might think they are involved in a consensual commercial transaction but the research findings give the lie to that, she said. Men who buy sex are a crucial link in a chain of exploitation that results in serious harm to women. Without them, the sex industry would not exist.
Fine Gael's spokesman for immigration and integration Denis Naughten said the approach to tackling trafficking was “piecemeal and insufficient” and called for a comprehensive strategy to be implemented.
Victims of trafficking who come forward to authorities receive no real protection. It is a sad state of affairs that women who do come forward, it is they the victims and not the traffickers who are imprisoned because of their illegal immigrant status,” he said.
“The Government is in effect protecting the sex trafficker while undermining the position of the victim. With political will, we can reverse this immediately and secure our first convictions against those directly involved in this debased trade.”