The Palermo Protocol defines human trafficking as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion,
of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” Exploitation includes “the prostitution of others or
other forms of sexual exploitation”.

At Nasc, we have found that trafficking and sexual exploitation are very real issues for migrant women and children in Ireland, who make up between 83% – 97% of people engaged with prostitution in Ireland. We have found from our work that there exists a very strong link between trafficking and sexual exploitation among migrant women and children. Specifically, child protection is one of the most pressing concerns. One statistic from a 2009 report states that out of the 102 cases studied of migrant women trafficked for the sexual exploitation in Ireland, 11 had involved minors. The Anti-Trafficking Unit’s also found that in 2012, 15 out of 56 victims of sex trafficking were minors and in 2011, 8 out of 37 were. See here for more information on all of the above.

Besides the support that we have offered individual victims, we have also campaigned for a change in legislation. We submitted a review on legislation on prostitution in August 2012 to the Joint Oireactas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, outlining our position on the criminalisation of the purchase of sex and the decriminalisation of prostitutes. We were later invited to attend and present at an oral hearing on the issue before the Committeein December 2013. We are also members of the Turn Off the Red Light campaign that is working towards legislation that criminalises the purchase of sex in Ireland. It was in this capacity that we supported the Cork City Council motion to make the purchase of sex illegal in September 2012.

The submission to the Joint Oireactas Committee proposed that both the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 and the Criminal Justice (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 do not effectively target those creating the demand for prostitution, and do not offer enough effective protection for victims of sex trafficking. On the basis of the information gathered and on the above concerns, a number of recommendations were made:

  • That the criminalisation of the purchase of all forms of sexual services along the lines of the ‘Swedish Model’, with the corresponding removal of any legislation which targets the prostitute or victim of trafficking/sexual exploitation
  • Any changes relating to the criminalisation of prostitution must be victim-centred and provide any other necessary reforms to trafficking legislation
  • Trafficking must be dealt with as a human rights issue, not as an immigration issue, particularly in relation to issues such as residency, repatriation and cooperation in criminal investigations
  • Comprehensive and holistic support and protection for victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking
  • Ongoing consultation directly with victims of sexual exploitation, trafficking and sex workers.

At Nasc, we understand that criminalising the purchase of sex is not enough in itself but believe that it is a first step. Ending the human rights violations committed against the men, women and children who have been trafficked into this country for exploitation must be a priority for the State.

Related Links:

Submission to Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality: ‘Review of Legislation on Prostitution’ 

Nasc makes a submission on review of prostitution leigslation

Nasc presents to Justice Committee on prostitution legislation

Cork City Council pass motion to make purchase of sex illegal

Turn Off the Red Light campaign