The Immigrant Council of Ireland is urging Galway TDs and senators to show their support for the publication of the heads of the Criminal Law [Sexual Offences] Bill 2014 which proposes wide ranging reforms of the current law.
Recent checks have shown that there are 87 women listed as being available in Galway on sex for sale sites.
These reforms include the criminalisation of the purchase of sex, new prohibition against sex offenders working with children and vulnerable persons, stronger sanctions aimed at protecting children from sexual exploitation; child pornography; and online grooming. Meanwhile the age of sexual consent is to remain at 17 following moves by the previous minister for justice Alan Shatter to lower it to 16.
The cabinet decision brings Ireland into line with Nordic countries, Canada, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the French National Assembly and Northern Ireland which will have similar laws next year.
The Oireachtas Justice Committee, had previously recommended that the purchase of sex be criminalised. The Immigrant Council claims Minister Frances Fitzgerald has taken the first step to wreck the business model for pimps and traffickers. The decision to target demand for prostitution and trafficking is being described as a victory for the women who agreed to relive the horror of their experience before the members of the Justice Committee in order to aid the democratic process.
Chief executive of the Immigrant Council, Denise Charlton, welcomed the interest the Minister had taken in this issue. ‘’The Minister has carried out a detailed examination of the evidence which shows sex buyer laws work. Her decision to criminalise the buyer is something which the 72 members of the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign have been seeking. The criminals behind prostitution have expanded their activity, a recent check of escort sites on a weekday morning showed 87 women for sale in Galway. It is now important that both the Oireachtas and Stormont advance laws swiftly so there is no safe haven for pimps, traffickers, or thugs anywhere on this island.”
Chair of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, John Cunningham, added: “Political consensus has already been achieved at the Oireachtas Justice Committee where sex buyer laws enjoy unanimous support – and that must be built on in the coming weeks. The committee made clear in its findings that it was particularly moved by the testimony of those women who shared their experiences of life in prostitution. This is a red letter decision for our campaign – but our work will go on until we see the laws become reality.”