7 April 2017
On St. Valentine’s Day, 14th February 2017, the Sexual Offences Bill was passed in Dáil Éireann. On the 8th of March 2017, International Women's Day, an event was held at City Hall to mark the passing of this important bill.
MECPATHS(Mercy Efforts to Counter Child Prostitution and Trafficking in the Hospitality Sector) were delighted to attend this momentous occasion.The bill contains two significant provisions, it decriminalises the seller of sex and makes the purchase of sex a criminal offence. This allows those who are trafficked or trapped in prostitution the safety to come forward and seek assistance and protection. It also tackles the demand by deterring the buyer and without the buyer there would be no demand. The bill was welcomed as providing protection that is needed for women and children.
Campaign Manager Ruth Kilcullen and Mary Ryan rsm-MECPATHS
Denise Charlton, Chair of ‘Turn off the Red Light Campaign’ quoted Dr. Geoffrey Shannon who said that this was the most significant piece of legislation addressing children and criminal law since the foundation of the state. The survivors of prostitution were acknowledged as core to the campaign and a few spoke bravely at the event, talking about the suffering they had endured and their delight at the passing of the bill. As survivor Rachel Moran said, “We are now in a country that I can actually be proud to live in. Ireland has reclaimed its own dignity as a nation”.
The law is recognised as being a law about the protection of human dignity and the protection of freedom. Survivor of prostitution Mia de Faoite noted, “we as humans are more connected with each other than the world would like us to believe” and that “this bill was a code of conduct between humans that will save generations to come”. She portrayed the point that bodily integrity is at the heart of human dignity and we should not choose whose bodily dignity we choose to protect as all humans should be afforded this protection.
Acknowledgement and gratitude were offered to all the 74 organisations and the many individuals who have worked hard to bring about the passing of the bill. A number of organisations were present for the celebration in City Hall including; The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Turn off the Red Light, Ruhama and the Immigrant Council of Ireland. Also present at the event was Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald to whom special tribute was paid for her role in the passing of the bill.
The next few years will be challenging to ensure that the act is implemented and that the law does the work that it was created to do. As Sarah Benson from Ruhama said “the law will only be as good as its implementation”. The progress of Ireland in passing this law has been internationally recognised.
MECPATHS continues the effort to counter child prostitution and trafficking in the hospitality sector. By raising awareness in hotels and the hospitality sector about this crime and the new law, hopefully we will be playing some part in ensuring that the spirit of this law has effect.