Seanad debates

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Human Trafficking and Prostitution: Motion


7:00 pm

Photo of Marie Louise O'DonnellMarie Louise O'Donnell (Independent)

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. As a rookie Senator, it is lovely to see her here. I have admired her work in the past and wish her all the best in her role.

It is very possible to have a debate on prostitution and trafficking that is without sentiment, passion and emotion because that is precisely what happens the people affected; they begin to lack emotion, sentiment and passion because of what has happened to them.

If Senator Bradford wants something rushed and not right, I suggest he read the amendment. It is probably one of the best examples of something that is rushed and not right. It is befuddled and does not state a case of which it is supposed to be certain. It shows very great uncertainty, which I find extraordinary given that we are talking about something as humane as this motion. Our motion states "the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation is a modern form of slavery and a form of human rights abuse". The amendment suggests we should include financial exploitation as a human rights abuse. This is an outrageous parallel because, while we know that all abuse is wrong, we know in particular that our response to the physical, mental and emotional abuse of women through prostitution and trafficking is at the core of who we are. If we were to parallel financial abuse therewith, we might as well say all of us have been desecrated, abused and violated by the banks. There is a very grave difference between those who are trafficked for sex and those affected by the power and greed of banks. There is no intelligible comparison. The comparison being made just adds to the uncertainty and befuddlement.

The amendment states that the Seanad "abhors especially the trafficking of children for the purposes of prostitution". We do not abhor anything "especially". This is a very bad use of an adverb. We do not abhor it at all; to abhor is to make a kind of weak assertion, rather like Senator Bradford's assertion that we are appalled and, therefore, in some way dilute the abuse. We do not dilute the abuse by language since we know the practice is appalling. We know, recognise and consider trafficking as criminal; that is all we need to say.

The amendment is incorrect in regard to the vacillation in estimating the extent of sexual exploitation and trafficking. There is an enormous amount of reliable, startling, up-to-date research, including qualitative, quantitative and on-the-ground research, in this area. Are we afraid to reference it, rely on it and use it? Some of the researchers, including on-the-ground researchers, and writers and purveyors of research are present.

The amendment states "Ireland's legislation on human trafficking for sexual exploitation complies with EU, Council of Europe and other international instruments". That does not mean it is working. Why does that mean it is working? The amendment also suggests our legislation on trafficking is "severe". In what way is it severe? Senator Zappone pointed this out. Where is the proof of the severity?

The amendment states curbing prostitution and criminalising the purchase of sex within our legal framework raises complex issues. All behaviour is complex. That it is complex does not mean we should not criminalise aspects thereof, especially those that close us down as human beings and do not allow women to stand up as dignified human beings.

Just because it is complex does not mean we should not criminalise aspects of it, especially those aspects which close us down as human beings and do not allow women to stand up as dignified human beings. Complexity must never be an insurance policy against the legalisation of criminality.

It is something of a clever and complex move into how we view pornography now because soft pornography has moved into our lives. It is a part of our language, dress, behaviour, advertising and marketing. It is a part of the way we are, a part of comedy and a part of the way we express ourselves. It is everywhere. It is interesting that the rise of soft pornography has taken place in parallel with the rise of prostitution and trafficking and as pornography becomes more acceptable, so do they.

It is also interesting that pornography has become ageless. There is no difference anymore and children are now mini-adults; they do not even wear different clothes. We find that we are suppressing them if we do not allow them into an adult world. It is as though shame has disappeared. This is what concerns me about the amendment because shame was not at the core of it and it does not sit anywhere in the amendment. Shame on us all that we even have need for an amendment. I will leave the House with that thought.


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