herald

Thursday 29 September 2016

Sex workers' group criticises Minister's comments on prostitution

Junior Minister John Halligan. Photo: Tom Burke
Junior Minister John Halligan. Photo: Tom Burke

Junior Minister John Halligan's proposal to regulate the sex industry would not benefit women, campaigners have said.

Ruhama, a Dublin-based body which works with women affected by prostitution, has criticised the Minister's approach.

CEO Sarah Benson told the Herald that there is "no evidence" to back up the Minister's claim that legalised brothels would create a safer environment for women.

In an interview with Hot Press magazine, Mr Halligan said that regulating the industry would "take it away from pimps that run prostitution rings".

He suggested that well-run brothels known to gardai, monitored by cameras and where men and women could get health checks would be a positive move.

The Waterford TD said that opening up the industry would help "lonely" men and the disabled, explaining: "I'm a healthy man and I have a good sex life, but would there not be lonely men out there?

"Would there not be men who have a disfigurement or who are disabled? What do they do? So they're told 'no'. So, there's an opportunity for them maybe to pay for it and we're saying 'no'. That's cruel.

"For men or women, that's cruel. So I think, absolutely, it should be regulated," Mr Halligan said.

Privilege

However, Ms Benson said that international research contradicts the Minister "however well-meaning or well-intentioned" he might be.

She said his comments appear to be more about the protection of male privilege to buy sex than the protection of those in prostitution.

Ms Benson argued that the sex trade is inextricably linked to exploitation and organised crime. She pointed to a study in the Netherlands where the ban on brothels was lifted in October 2000.

The research found that there has been no significant improvement in the situation of persons in prostitution and that prostitutes' emotional well-being is now lower than in 2001 on all measured aspects.

Ms Benson said the sex trade "is one that does not constitute normal work" and that, while people selling sex should not be criminalised, but those buying it should be.

In the same interview, Mr Halligan described himself as an atheist who lost his virginity at 15 and dropped out of school at 16.

He also said that he doesn't believe a God could exist because nobody could create a world of raging war, murders and rapes.

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