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Almost one in ten men have paid for sex, all-Ireland poll reveals

By Ed Carty

Published 22/04/2015

Most people believe women are forced into prostitution by difficult circumstances
Most people believe women are forced into prostitution by difficult circumstances

Almost one in 10 men have paid for sex but not on a regular basis, a poll has found as part of a campaign against the sex trade.

The cross-border drive to encourage people to make a stand against prostitution also revealed that three-quarters of people think women selling sex have been the victim of violence or abuse from clients.

The campaign - backed by the Republic's Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford - is the first all-island campaign asking men and boys to oppose the sex trade and trafficking.

It focuses on getting ordinary people to back the "We Don't Buy It" slogan by saying they do not buy sex and do not buy lies that allow it to continue.

Ms Fitzgerald appealed to Irish men to start a public conversation on the wrongs of prostitution.

"Public education and awareness play a vital role in reducing the demand for the services of victims of trafficking. We all have a role to play and that is the aim of this very striking campaign," she said.

The purchase of sex was criminalised in Northern Ireland last year while proposed similar laws for the Republic have been outlined.

Mr Ford said drawing people's attention to human trafficking, the signs and indicators, boosts the chances of victims being found.

"Human trafficking is a detestable crime, which dehumanises its victims and destroys lives. Those who traffic do not see their victims as fellow humans, rather as mere commodities, and over time they can succeed in removing a victim's self-worth and identity completely," he said.

The Red C poll surveyed 1,033 over-18s in mid-March as part of the European Commission's Reach Project to raise awareness of trafficking as a form of violence against women and girls. It found:

:: 88% of Irish men have never bought sex - 8% have, but not regularly;

:: 72% of those surveyed believe women who sell sex were forced into it by difficult circumstances;

:: 62% believe that women who sell sex have been pimped or trafficked into the sex industry;

:: 60% believe that the primary reason men buy sex is because of sexual practices their partners are not willing to engage in;

:: 79% of people believe criminal gangs or pimps profit most from prostitution and trafficking in Ireland while only 8% believe the women who sell sex are the main beneficiaries.

Rachel Moran, a former sex worker turned author, said the focus of campaigns should be on those who do not buy sex and encouraging people to make a stand against the vice trade.

"Men who buy sex are very well aware that they are further exploiting an already exploited group of women and girls," she said.

"I did not need the statistics to convince me but I'm glad the truth is getting out there to the wider public."

 Sarah Benson said: "Prostitution is the context where most sex trafficking occurs. This independent survey tells us that Irish people believe that the sex trade in Ireland is overwhelmingly organised with the majority of women linked to pimps and traffickers."

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