What Proposed New Legislation in Ireland Really Means

General Scheme of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2014

Head 10 New section 5A in Act of 1993
(offence of purchasing sexual services)

Provide that –
The following section is inserted after section 5 of the Act of 1993

Offence of purchasing sexual services
5A(1) For the purposes of this head, the term “sexual service” shall have the same
meaning as the term “sexual activity.”

(2) Where, in the context of prostitution, any person who purchases a sexual service
from another person, in any place, he or she shall be guilty of an offence.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary
conviction to:
(a) a class E fine, in the case of a first conviction, or
(b) a class D fine, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction.

(4) Any person who attempts to purchase a sexual service from another person, in
any place, he or she shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary
conviction to a class E fine.”

Now let me tell you what that means, and how it will be implemented in real terms.

Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993 made it an offence to loiter or solicit for “the purposes of prostitution” with penalties ranging from a fine equal to a very good night’s work in 1993 to a fine equal to an average to poor week’s work in 1993 and 4 weeks imprisonment.

The paradoxical insanity of fining sex workers so they have to go straight back out and sell sex to pay the fine has been discussed at length just about everywhere. Of course, these laws did not only apply to sex workers, they could be applied equally to clients.

In 1993 street sex work had been effectively decriminalized by precedent for ten years. As a result street workers were 100% independent except for a handful of people in relationships that would have been abusive and predatory in any context. They were so few I think I could actually name and describe them all to this day. The “normalizing” effect of decriminalization meant that we had, and CAME TO EXPECT the same treatment rights and privileges as anyone else, and most of the time we got them.

We had an excellent relationship with the Gardaí who would immediately warn us of any abuse and the apprehension of abusers was usually very much a joint operation.

The only serious problems were territorial bullying from other sex workers (which truly disgusted me and needed legislating against) and the objections of wealthy residents in the Waterloo Road and Mount Street areas.

With hindsight I can understand those objections better, but at the time I was left no alternative but sex work to survive, and, frankly, I could not have given a toss about the minor inconvenience of wealthy residents who would never know a moment of hardship in their lives and knew perfectly well it was a red light district when they bought their houses at somewhat reduced rates.

However, the better answer would have been tolerance zones, as Ivana Bacik herself suggested in 2000 and would seem to have conveniently forgotten since. We could not shift the red light districts away from residential areas ourselves, anyone who tried to work elsewhere would not have made any money. As sex workers are competitors it would have been impossible to unite them…if you got a few to work together, more would stay behind and clean up. But if the red light districts had been rezoned by law with zero tolerance outside them, everybody would have moved.

But no, we had the 1993 law instead. The effect of that law was to force most independent sex workers indoors and into compliance with organized crime. The bill had a serious knock on effect on indoor trade too. Before 1993 you would have paid about 20% to work indoors, after 1993 this rose to 50 and even 60%, just because, before 1993 if you did not like the terms and conditions you could walk out, after 1993 you were totally disempowered and had to take whatever you could get.

Organised crime that had given the sex industry a wide berth since it was decriminalized (a decriminalized and empowered sex worker can be a very scary lady and organized crime tends to pick its battles!) already moved into place prior to the bill stage of the 1993 law and cleaned up on sex workers too desperate to go on earning money to meet commitments (it was implemented in September, start of school term, run down to Christmas…) to care how draconian the terms would be.

Some women stayed on the street because they could not  adapt to working indoors, and handing over money to other people, and alcohol and drug abuse to cope with the stress of increased danger and constant threat of arrest were rife. As a result, even the residents did not exactly get what they wanted.

Zoning would have suited everybody far better and done good rather than the terrible harm the 1993 Act was acknowledged to do by 1995.

What these new amendments will achieve is to enable the Gardaí to follow, or even come upon a sex worker with her client and arrest the client, where, in the past, they could only arrest for soliciting. This is an important logistical difference, as, under existing laws you only have a 2 or 3 minute “window” in which to make any kind of arrest at absolute most, which requires ridiculously labour intensive policing to have any impact. The proposed legislation extends the “window” to at least 20 minutes and shifts the focus to known locations for business (where, at present, no arrest could be made).

This will make life impossible for street workers who still exist in reasonable numbers. Street workers tend to be survival sex workers who do not like sex work, but prefer it to the arbitrary abuse and mayhem of existing services.

There are a lot of reasons for choosing street work, the clients expectations are far more constrained, it requires no initial investment, and there is absolutely no need to pay anyone else.

The amendment will work by offering clients little or no realistic safe choice but online advertising and/or facilitation through organized crime (who will make it look all sanitized and nice for marketing purposes), just as the original 1993 act cornered independent sex workers into the same position. The results will be just as harmful.

Escort Ireland has a closed shop monopoly on much of the sex industry as well as both sex work positive resources, in that they effectively own “Uglymugsie” have a strong working alliance with, and (it seems) may even have played a large part in founding SWAI.

This legislation is a gift in terms of intimidating independent indoor sex workers (who, along with their clients, are currently fully legal as long as they work alone) into compliance with anyone who wants their compliance, and nice people do not intimidate others even when the weapon used for the purpose is the law itself.

In real terms this legislation will make it close to impossible for sex workers to earn any money without either full compliance with Escort Ireland or the enclaves of organized crime that have been moving into place for at least two years.

This proposed legislation will be ALL THE CHRISTMASSES AND BIRTHDAYS come at once to pimps, traffickers and abusers as well as the equally coercive and damaging direct descendents of the Magdalene Laundries also already moving into position.

It will be almost impossible for any sex worker in Ireland to avoid draconian exploitation of some kind, and the more vulnerable they are the worse that will be, and all involved are as fully aware of this as I am.

To put it very, very bluntly, this proposed legislation will fuck every sex worker in Ireland up the arse without a condom, not just once, but indefinitely.

That will work.

See Compromising with the Nordic Model



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