Vulnerable street sex workers have been “exploited” by Gardaí, according to a new report

Sex workers have been “sexually exploited” on the streets and pressured into selling sex to gardaí, according to a study published today

The study, led by the University of Limerick and funded by the Department of Justice, found sex workers had been manipulated by Gardaí who took advantage of their ignorance of their legal rights.

I Must Be Some Person: Accounts from Street Sex Workers in Ireland is the result of a three year research project into the experiences of street sex workers in Ireland.

Five of the 25 respondents said they had been sexually exploited by Gardaí.

“This shows that there is a clear problem within the Irish law enforcement system when members of An Garda Síochána are involved in the exploitation of vulnerable populations,” the report said.

Some sex workers also reported being approached by gardaí “who wanted to buy sexual services”.

One worker said an officer asked her “what her tariffs were,” and after she said she doesn’t do business with Gardaí, he said, “You will do business with me, I need your cooperation.”

Another said gardaí would make gestures suggesting oral sex and “humiliate” sex workers.

Another said male Gardaí would embarrass them by joking and asking, “What would you do for a tenner?”

Another said officers would call new girls “fresh meat.”

The street sex workers, 15 in Dublin and 10 in Limerick, were interviewed twice by a team that included current or former sex workers.

The study looked at the impact of a law introduced five years ago that made it illegal to pay for sex in Ireland.

In 2017, a new law criminalized the buying of sex and increased policing of sex work as part of a government plan to “end the demand” for prostitution.

The same law also increased penalties for running brothels to a €5,000 fine and up to 12 months in prison. Two or more sex workers living together are classified as a brothel, so critics of the law have argued that the legislation has an adverse effect on sex workers who may choose to live and work together for safety reasons.

According to the report, about half of the sex workers surveyed were unaware of the 2017 law change aimed at removing prosecutions for those who sell sex and instead punishing the buyer.

It said sex workers who were unaware of the law were “unaware of their legal rights”.

Of the 50 interviews conducted for the report, nine mentioned “incidents in which An Garda Síochána officials manipulated the participants’ ignorance of the law and their legal rights”.

The report said that while the law was intended to prevent exploitation and sex trafficking, “it has drastically marginalized already vulnerable populations and made life even more difficult for street sex workers in urban areas.”

It called for the full decriminalization of sex work and a clear separation by the government of consensual sex work from sexual exploitation or human trafficking.

Adeline Berry, a sex worker who was a member of the study’s steering committee, said she had shown that “sex workers in Ireland need protection from the Gardaí and the only way to do that is to decriminalize sex work”.

dr Anca Minescu, the report’s author and lecturer in psychology at the University of Limerick, said the report shows that “our current sex work law negatively impacts the life, safety and well-being of sex workers”.

A Garda spokesman said the force actively interacts with sex workers through social screening.

They added that Gardaí’s focus in enforcing the 2017 law was “to target those involved in the purchase of sexual services and to protect those engaged in the sex trade.” Vulnerable street sex workers have been “exploited” by Gardaí, according to a new report

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