Seanad debates

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Human Trafficking and Prostitution: Motion


6:00 pm

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)

I am giving my honest opinion. It is too hasty to say over one day's debate that we should criminalise the purchase of sex. That legislation would be totally wrong. We need a national debate with the people in Ireland, not just in here. We cannot be overwhelmed by the success of the Swedish model because there are many reports stating that the evidence of that model is not quite correct.

I commend the Immigrant Council of Ireland for lobbying to improve the level of protection and services available to victims of trafficking. I am totally opposed to all forms of trafficking, including labour and sexual trafficking. Many Senators may be aware that al-Jazeera is currently running a weekly programme called "Slavery: a 21st-century evil". It claims that there are more slaves in the world today than there were at the height of the transatlantic slave trade from Africa to the colonies in North and South America. The slave trade is now bigger than ever before. The most widely accepted international figure for the number of slaves is 27 million men, women and children. International experts, such as the academic campaigner Kevin Bales, have revealed evidence that it is cheaper to own a slave today than it was during the 19th century.

In order to have a national debate, we must listen to the other side of the argument. I am sure that all Senators have received e-mails from the Turn off the Red Light campaign, which is a small, sex worker-led association. That organisation is campaigning for the health, safety, civil and labour rights of sex workers. They have expressed a desire to stop trafficking, abuse and exploitation within the sex industry. However, they strongly believe that criminalising the purchase of sex is not the answer and, in fact, would only serve to drive the sex industry further underground and make it more dangerous for everyone. The Turn off the Red Light campaign asks that before the Government even considers bringing in new prostitution laws, it should consult that organisation's views.

I commend the Independent Senators for bringing this issue back onto the agenda, but as a true democrat I believe there should be no hasty legislation. I know I am right. That is why I support the Government's amendment recognising that legislation alone is not effective in preventing prostitution. It also agrees that prior to the Government making a definitive decision on whether legislation should be enacted reflecting legislation in Sweden and Norway, there should be a considered public debate.

Senator Mac Conghail stated there has been a debate but that is not correct. This matter has not entered the broader Irish public domain. I have not heard it there.


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