Ireland's sex trade is 'thriving' say campaigners

About 1,000 women are working as prostitutes in Ireland every day, an agency which supports those in the sex trade said.

Ruhama said it worked with 204 women last year, up 4% on the previous year, while the number of new victims of trafficking it has been alerted to remained static.

The group said there was a 9% increase in the number of women working the streets and seeking help.

Sarah Benson, Ruhama chief executive, said it helped 80 women who claimed they had been trafficked to Ireland.

"This truly exemplifies the global nature of prostitution and trafficking and reflects the complexity of a frontline response such as that offered by Ruhama," she said.

"We are constantly adapting to ensure that we are mindful and respectful of the diverse cultural backgrounds of the women accessing our services."

Ruhama helped 70 women working as street prostitutes through its outreach service. It described Ireland's sex trade as thriving.

But the annual report warned that on any day up to 1,000 women and girls are selling sex in apartments, hotels, on the streets and in private clubs and massage parlours across the country.

Ruhama said that based on the location of women claiming they have been trafficked into Ireland the sex trade is not just a city issue but a feature of small rural parts of the country.

It said the majority of women referred to the agency for the first time in 2010 were working in indoor prostitution as escorts or in brothels.

Ms Benson repeated calls for vice laws to be reformed with the criminal burden placed on those paying for sex and not those selling.

"The focus has rightly turned in recent times, from the women and girls, and the small number of men and boys who are in prostitution towards those who are profiting," she said.

"This includes of course the buyers. The sex trade is a multi-million euro industry in Ireland fuelled by their demand.

"A positive step in overcoming this growth in the sex trade would be to stem demand by criminalising the buyers through legislative change."

Ruhama also called for new legislation to improve the policing of the internet and mobile phones to keep pace with advances in organised prostitution.

PA

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