Call for action to meet human rights obligations on demand in relation to sex trafficking and prostitution

A human rights approach to combating sex trafficking requires the Government to adopt measures to tackle the demand for prostitution and all other forms of sexual exploitation of people, particularly women and children, a joint Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) and the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) seminar on "Sex Trafficking and Prostitution – The Dilemma of Demand" hosted by the Centre for Post-Conflict Justice at Trinity College Dublin, heard today.

The ICI and IHRC called on the Government to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings immediately. This Convention requires the Government to adopt the necessary legislation and other measures needed to discourage the demand that leads to sex trafficking and prostitution.

The seminar heard from Canadian investigative journalist Victor Malarek. Mr Malarek is the author of "The Natashas" and "’The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It", which was released in the US and Canada last month. Mr Malarek has publicly called for the criminalisation of the act of paying for sex.

Mr Malarek said "Demand for paid sex is skyrocketing through sex tourism, pornography and internet sites where paying for sex is made to seem normal. Men who buy sex prefer women from poor, undeveloped countries because they are profoundly uncomfortable with empowered women.

"We need to put the brakes on what has become a sexual calamity. Sweden’s approach shows they know that you can never have equality, dignity and respect for women as long as paying for sex is allowed. Countries that legalise prostitution are sending a message that it’s okay to purchase women for sex, for men to impose their sexual will via the mighty dollar. When a country legalises prostitution, it lives off the avails of prostitution through taxation and in effect becomes a pimp."

ICI Chief Executive Denise Charlton said "Ireland must make greater efforts to tackle demand from men who buy sex if Government plans to combat and prevent trafficking are to have any chance of success.

"Criminalising the buyers of sex has been shown to lead to a reduction in sex trafficking in Sweden. Sweden is currently evaluating the impact of its approach, which has since been adopted by Norway and Iceland, but the Government there has said the criminalisation of the purchase of sex will remain.

"Ultimately, Ireland must decide whether or not we believe it is acceptable for women’s bodies to be bought for sex in this country, knowing the very serious levels of physical and emotional harm victims of sex trafficking and women involved in prostitution experience."

Dr Rosemary Byrne, IHRC Commissioner said "Article 6 of the Council of Europe Convention places a positive obligation upon governments to adopt measures that tackle the demand for the trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation. While the IHRC welcomes the recent publication of the Government’s National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking of Human Beings in Ireland which recognises that one factor fuelling human trafficking is the demand for the services of its victims and that the need to discourage demand is a key priority.

To discourage demand, the IHRC would like to see the full range of measures outlined in Article 6 adopted by the Government including legislation, awareness and education:"

Dr Maurice Manning, President of the IHRC, told the seminar that "this event is an important opportunity to open up the discussion on demand and the actions that need to be taken. The IHRC will be active in follow up work on this issue. We will continue to push the Government to vigorously deal with human trafficking which results in such appalling levels of exploitation."


Notes to Editor

  1. Since 1999, it has been illegal to pay for casual sexual relations in Sweden. The penalty is a fine or imprisonment for up to six months. This applies both to those who pay for sexual relations and those who take advantage of casual sexual relations paid for by another person.
  2. Norway and Iceland have also criminalised the purchase of sex.
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