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Abusive nature of prostitution cannot be ‘legislated away’
Pic: Shutterstock

22 Sep 2020 / legislation Print

Prostitution's abuses cannot be ‘legislated away’

Survivors of prostitution have sharply criticised any plans to decriminalise the purchase of women for sex.

“Legislation which outlaws the purchase of sexual access needs to be effectively enforced – not overturned,” says SPACE International, the organisation for Survivors of Prostitution Abuse Calling for Enlightenment.

SPACE wants prostitution recognised as sexually abusive exploitation, and for criminalisation of the demand for “paid sexual access to human beings”. 

A public consultation on Part 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 drew to a close on Saturday, 19 September.


The existing offences of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution were removed in the 2017 act. 

Part 4 introduced two new offences, namely paying for sexual activity with a prostitute and paying for sexual activity with a trafficked person.

“The Government would be wrong to overturn legislation outlawing the purchase of ­sexual access to human beings,” says SPACE founder and former prostitute Rachel Moran.

“Those who argue for the law to be overturned ignore the lived experiences of women who have survived prostitution.

“Prostitution is inherently abusive and exploitative and as we have seen in Holland, New Zealand and elsewhere, its abusive nature cannot be legislated away,” she said.

SPACE International campaigned strongly for the introduction of Part 4 of the 2017 law.

Exit services

It wants the law upheld, enforced, and for access to exit service supports as a statutory right for prostitutes.

“The law can make a real difference for women involved in prostitution, but it needs to be effectively enforced,” Rachel Moran continued.

“In the three years since the law was introduced only a negligible number of men have been arrested for breaking it, which shows the clear need for stronger and more robust enforcement,” she said.

Prostitution websites are allowed free rein and profit enormously from facilitating men to break the law, she said. 

“It is our view that the government cannot meaningfully review a law which has not been properly implemented.


“Therefore, as part of their review process, the government must address the websites which make millions marketing women to men in this country and give gardaí the powers to shut these websites down,” she said.

Only then will the Sexual Offences Act be effective in ending the Irish sex trade, Rachel Moran said.

She has also criticised those who utter "trendy mantras about standing with sex workers" and says they miss grim reality of prostitution.

Rachel Moran is the author of a 2013 memoir 'Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution', which related details of her time working as a teenage prostitute.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland