Crime against sex workers has almost doubled in the two years since new laws were implemented, campaigners have said.
Ireland adopted the “Nordic Model” on March 27 2017, criminalising the purchase of sex, not the selling of sex, which the Government says is aimed at tackling trafficking and protecting vulnerable people in prostitution.
Sex worker organisations have railed against the change since it was implemented, saying the new laws make workers more vulnerable.
Brothel-keeping laws have proved especially contentious as many workers (the majority of whom are women) would prefer to work in a shared property with a friend for safety reasons, however this practice would amount to a brothel under law, and see those involved arrested.
Statistics from UglyMugs.ie, an app where sex workers can confidentially report incidents of abuse and crime, state that since the law came into force, the number of incidents of abuse and crime being reported in the Republic of Ireland has greatly increased.
The number of sex workers using UglyMugs.ie has remained steady at between 6,000 and 7,000 per year.
The number of incidents reported from 2015-2017 was 4,278. Since the law change, from 2017-2019, incidents rose to 10,076.
According to the report, crime has increased 90% whereas violent crime specifically has increased 92%.
Kate McGrew, sex worker and director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says the new laws have created a buyer’s market, putting workers at risk.
“The purchasers of sex hold the power, this is in direct opposition to what we were told was the intention of the law,” she said.
“Sex workers are not decriminalised.
“The penalties of sex workers sharing premises together, also known as brothel keeping, has doubled since the introduction of the new Sexual Offences Bill in 2017.
“Sex workers are now forced to work in isolation, which puts them at further risk of violence and exploitation.
“Since the law has been introduced many more sex workers have been arrested than clients.
“We want sex work decriminalised so that the power gets put back in the hands of the worker.”
A Department of Justice spokesman: “The purpose of these offences is to target the demand for prostitution.
“At the same time, the Act changed the law in relation to the sale of sexual services so that it is not an offence to engage in sexual activity for payment.
“There was a broad coalition of different groups in favour of the legislative change, many of which were involved in advocacy for women’s rights.
“Any person who has been the subject of a violent crime is encouraged to report it to An Garda Siochana. Any group with evidence of such crimes should make its information available to An Garda Siochana.”
A Gardai spokeswoman said: “An Garda Siochana do not comment on stats done by ‘apps’.”