27/09/2011

'Punish Sex Purchasers Not Prostitutes'

Police have urged the Irish Government to consider penalising those who purchase sex rather than prostitutes.

Senior officers from Sweden and Norway - where men who buy sex are criminalised instead of prostitutes - said the numbers being trafficked to work in the sex industry would be slashed if laws were changed to protect women.

Detective Superintendent Jonas Trolle, who heads a trafficking investigation team in Stockholm, said crime gangs who force women into prostitution are also dealing with drugs, weapons and money laundering.

"Prostitution is always connected with organised crime,"said Mr Trolle.

Legalising prostitution in Ireland would just line the pockets of criminals and gangs, he added.

Mr Trolle and a team of specialists were in Dublin to meet organisations and agencies working with prostitution and human trafficking, including senior gardai from the organised crime unit, members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Health Executive Board, the Legal Aid Board and housing associations.

This meeting follows a statement issued in July by the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) with the support of more that 30 other civil society organisations. They too called on the Irish Government to tackle the key element which fuels the Irish prostitution industry into which migrant women and girls are trafficked, and that is the demand for paid sex.

ICI said: "The Turn Off The Red Light campaign is calling for the reform of Ireland's prostitution laws to penalise the purchase of sex because this approach has proven to be the most effective way to combat exploitation through prostitution and sex trafficking."

The Swedish model of punishing the purchasers of sex rather than the prostitute claims to have proven results.

According to Mr Trolle a ten year review revealed that Stockholm, with a population of 1.5 million, had recorded 200 people engaged in prostitution. This is down from 3,000 people in the 1970s.

Denise Charlton, ICI chief executive, said Justice Minister Alan Shatter is giving serious consideration to applying the Swedish model to Irish law.

(LB/CD)

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