A report has been released by the University College Dublin (UCD) Geary Institute for Public Policy analysing the Irish sex trade in the context of prostitution law reform. The report intended to contribute to the review of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 2017 commissioned by The Department of Justice and Equality, which was completed in 2020.

According to the report, the “most immediate and visible” impact of the 2017 Act has been the decriminalisation of women in street prostitution. The 2017 Act signified a shift in focus towards the criminalisation of those pimping and organising prostitution, resulting in the sharp 80% decrease in brothel keeping from 2012 – 2019. 

Citing evidence from the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNSPB), the report said: “We’ve gone from the seller’s market to a demand market, from a seller offence to a demand and a purchaser offence and that’s important.”, and “The people who purchase sex have a lot to lose”. The move towards decriminalisation has been widely supported by the GNSPB, however it is acknowledged that this needs to be “embedded across the police service” and that further education and training is needed to ensure the Act’s “full implementation”. 

While the act has resulted in an increased willingness of sex worders to report crimes, the report also states that more must be done in order for the Gardaí to gain their trust. Many women reportedly still fear becoming known to the Gardaí for a variety of reasons, including negative past experiences, such as brothel raids which result in loss of accommodation and/or possessions. 

The study by the Geary institute provided a series of recommendations under different categories. Relating to ‘law enforcement and justice’, continued education and training of An Garda Síochana. The report also recommended  “activities to enhance women’s safety and confidence in reporting crimes committed against them”, and for “dedicated national guidelines for brothel raids” to ensure that the negative impacts on women found on brothel premises are minimised as far as possible. It also recommended enhanced resourcing of the operations of the Gardaí. 

The report has drawn some criticism however, for its reported lack of first-hand evidence and stories in its compilation. One Twitter user highlighted this lack of evidence on UCD Confessions, advocating that in their research into prostitution, UCD should speak “to an actual sex worker”. 

Emer Nolan – Reporter

Additional Reporting by: Gemma Farrell – Assistant News Editor