The oldest profession or the abuse of women?
By Ebenezer Segatu
Launched in September 2010, Tirzah seeks to prepare the Church and society to act to bring an end to human trafficking in Ireland and to restore the lives of the victims. It is an initiative of the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland.
Here, Tirzah volunteer Ebenezer Segatu explores the issues surrounding moves to criminalise the purchase of sex in Ireland and reviews a book by Victor Malarek exploring the role of “demand” in the sex industry.
Reports by the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) and NGOs like Ruhama indicate the global multibillion sex industry in Ireland is thriving despite the present economic crisis.
Last year, Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, announced that the Irish Government is considering legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex in Ireland. The aim was to curb prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Following a heated debate in the Dáil, the Ministry of Justice has launched a public consultation process. This has raised opposition from groups that argue that such a law would not be a solution.
Diane Kelly, communication and liaison officer at Immigration Council of Ireland, says, “The sex industry has already spread to every corner of the country posing the danger to become accepted in people’s minds as a normal feature of everyday life, that it is an inevitable evil or the ‘oldest profession’ in the book.”
The Irish Government is considering legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex in Ireland
Would a new law help to rectify such deep-rooted misconception and stop human trafficking?
The role of demand
Award-winning Canadian journalist Victor Malarek examines demand in the global sex industry in his book, The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy it.
Malarek believes men who buy sex are the driving force behind the thriving industry and the reason why hundreds of thousands of women and girls are trafficked into sexual slavery every year. His investigation provides horrific stories of exploitation, cruelty, venality and the degradation of humanity.
Men who buy sex often want to avoid commitment or real relationship. Married or single, these men depend on cash to get what they want in the way they want it. Some justify their actions by describing the women as service providers.
According to Malarek, some men try to gain power and control over women by paying money for sexual exploitation.
Understanding the consequences
Norma Hotaling, the founder of SAGE (Standing Against Global Exploitation) and the “Johns’ School” believes men involved in the sex trade don’t consider the consequence of their actions.
Malarek heralds Norma’s work with the San Francisco First Offender Prostitute Programme. Norma was an ex-prostitute who was trafficked as a child and spent twenty-one years selling her body on the streets of San Francisco.
Since 1996, Norma has educated more than 5,800 men who were caught soliciting sex. A study conducted in 2000 indicates that the arrest rates dropped by half since the programme started. Norma died of cancer in 2008, but others who stand against the exploitation of women have adopted her idea of a Johns’ School.
Malarek recounts stories of children as young as three who are robbed of their innocence. The heroic efforts of the International Justice Mission is described as the A-Team for Jesus that kicks down doors and rescues children forced into sex. In a single raid in March 2003 they rescued 37 girls starting from age 5 in one brothel in Svay Pak, Cambodia.
Debunking the myth of the “happy hooker”
Opposing the notion, advocated by so-called sex-workers’ organisations, that prostitution should be considered as a career choice, Malarek points out “For the majority, prostitution isn’t a profession, it’s a prison sentence. Their lives aren’t fairy tales, they are nightmares.”
He debunks the happy face of prostitution captured in movies like ‘Pretty Women’ and uncovers the sad reality that most women don’t choose prostitution but are forced into it. Malarek concludes that legalising prostitution does not bring dignity to women.
Malarek’s comments mirror a recent campaign launched by Dublin-based charity Ruhama. 'Women sell sex because they have to, not because they want to' is the message on the stark poster.
Sarah Benson, CEO, Ruhama said: “This poster contradicts the glamorous veneer and images used to advertise and normalise prostitution. When you peel back the layers it is no more than the transaction of money to access another person’s body for sex. Who the person in prostitution really is becomes irrelevant in this interaction. The buyer’s desires are prioritised.”
Groups such as Ruhama and Tirzah are lobbying for Ireland to adopt a similar system to that which operates in Sweden in which the “buyers” are prosecuted. Since the introduction of the Sex Purchase Law in 1999, the number of men in Sweden who buy sex has dropped dramatically and so has the recruitment of women and girls for prostitution.
Tell us what you think? Will criminalising the purchase of sex make things better or worse for prostitutes? How should Christians in Ireland respond to this issue?