| 11.2°C Dublin

Ban on vice girls could lead to rapes - senator

A SENATOR who warned that making criminals of men who pay for sex could lead to an upsurge in rape and sexual attacks trenchantly refused today to cite evidence for her remarks.

"I don't want to get involved," said Fianna Fail Senator Mary White, adding that what she had said during the Seanad debate yesterday "is there for you and I'm not going to say anymore".

When asked what research she had to back up her claims, Senator White refused to discuss the issue with the retort "don't be so cheeky".

The Senator had tabled an amendment yesterday to block a motion by Independent Senators proposing Government legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex to curb prostitution and trafficking.

She warned that introducing jail sentences for these men could result in them committing random attacks to satisfy their sexual appetites.

Senator White said there was evidence to support the view that criminalising those who bought sex heightened rapes of strangers and other random attacks, but the senator would not say where this evidence was available.

Yesterday's private members' motion was tabled by Taoiseach's appointee Senator Katherine Zappone, who was supported by Ivana Bacik of the Labour Party.

The Independent Senators argued that current laws on prostitution are ambiguous and insufficient in this country where more than 1,000 women made available for paid sex on a daily basis in an industry valued at €250m a year.

They said evidence from Sweden and Norway showed that criminal sanction for the purchase of sex was a proven deterrent to prostitution and consequently to trafficking and also to organised crime.

Swedish police had stated that the Swedish ban on the purchase of sex acted as a barrier to human trafficking.

Said Senator Zappone: "We recognise that the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation is a modern form of slavery and a form of human rights abuse."

Senator Jillian Van Turnhout added: "The evidence from child victims cannot be ignored any longer.

"Child trafficking is a problem at the heart of our communities, not just in our cities but in our towns and villages."

Later Senator White rowed back on her remarks, saying there was need for further study and public debate before the law was changed.

"We don't know. I am saying let us have further research. We shouldn't be rushing into things when we don't know what the results will be.

"We have to ask ourselves why there are brothels up and down this country, the length of the land, and there are married men and single men using them. Men from all walks of life are availing of prostitution whether we like it or not."

csheehy@herald.ie