Seanad debates

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Human Trafficking and Prostitution: Motion


6:00 pm

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)

I welcome the Minister of State. To some extent I concur with much of what has been said here today. This is a grave social problem based on the abuse of human beings and in this case the abuse of women and girls. I compliment the courage of the Independent Senators in tabling this timely motion. It is time for us to view this as a very serious crime against women, not just making women victims, but making them completely inferior. Women enter prostitution on the false promise of a good job or a new life. They are sometimes sold by a partner or are kidnapped. They can find themselves in poverty and homeless and many have drug and alcohol addictions. I compliment the work of Ruhama. As the previous speaker said, it has educated us over time as have the coalition of organisations represented by Turn off the Red Light.

Prostitution is an industry and has become more high tech, which makes it more invisible and harder to trap. It is a global issue with people trafficked into this country from 31 foreign countries. There is also a European dimension which has not been addressed in the Minister of State' earlier contribution. If she responds later, I ask her to address how it is being tackled on a Europe-wide basis.

I fully support the legislation to penalise the purchase of sex. No woman standing here today could but support the evidence to show that the Swedish model is working. I ask the Minister of State to request the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, to as quickly as possible come up with a model of legislation that will not fall under constitutional challenge. I am pleased the Minister of State has put a six-month timeframe on that. If she responds at the end of the debate I ask her to state whether we will have a framework in six months. What will we have ain six months? Before the Swedish legislation was introduced, one in eight men bought sex and that is now down to one in 40. There is clear evidence that it is deterring men from purchasing sex and in doing so reducing the attraction of sex trafficking. There was significant public support in Sweden with approximately 80% in favour of the Act. It is bringing about gender equality, which is difficult to do.

We need a wider public debate on the issue of the early sexualisation of girls. In a way that is a precursor to seeing women as prostitutes. As a mother of a young girl, I am very concerned about this. The ISPCC study published yesterday indicated that one in six second level students has physically met a stranger whom he or she first met online. Often when meeting it became clear that the person who did the enticing had lied about his or her age and identity, which links into very risky behaviour and the area of paedophilia. Parents are often unaware of what children are viewing not just when computers are based in bedrooms, which is often the case, but even when they are in living rooms. The study indicated that a person under 18 spends on average one to three hours daily on the Internet. Education is needed on privacy settings.

Yesterday's Guardian newspaper reported that the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, is holding a summit on the dangers of the Internet. This has come as a result of the riots in the UK and his need to keep to women voters happy. We must have rigorous clamp-down on the sexualisation of children, particularly young girls. This involves advertising and the national broadcaster can play a role in this regard.

I completely support the thrust of everything that has been said here today. I support the amendment on the basis that we have a six-month time frame. I presume that we will have something back in this House by March 2012. I echo what Senator Bacik said in wanting to see legislation drafted with sufficiently good legal advice so that it is not open to constitutional challenge. I look forward to tracking the progress of such legislation because we must put the dignity of the human being - the dignity of the woman - first. Such women are victims and are clearly being made to seem inferior by this age-old profession. I hate that term being used as a means to justify it. It is time it stopped and let us in this House act in unison to ensure that happens.


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