The Campaign So Far

February 2016 - The Bill entered Second Stage in the Dáil. There have been delays due to the election, but the Bill is now in a position to be progressed and enacted in the coming months.

January 2016 – The Sexual Offences Bill finished its journey through the Seanad, passing with cross-party support. It then entered Second Stage in the Dáil, the first of three stages before the Bill can be enacted. Statements of support for the Bill were made by all four leading political parties. As it stands the Bill includes laws to criminalise the purchase of sex, while explicitly decriminalising the sale of sex. Read more about the Bill on the Oireachtas website.

December 2015 – The Sexual Offences Bill passed Second Stage in the Seanad. An amendment was proposed and accepted at Committee Stage to include explicit decriminalisation of the sale of sex, as is consistent with the Swedish Model, to ensure that the most vulnerable in the sex trade do not face prosecution. This is in addition to the criminalisation of the purchase of sex.

September 2015 – The Sexual Offences Bill was published in full.

April 2015 - Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald and Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford attended and spoke at the launch of the #wedontbuyit Campaign. The campaign is part of the REACH Project, coordinated by the two Justice Departments and other partners including Ruhama, and aims to raise awareness of sex trafficking. Several high profile men were also involved in the launch of the campaign, which aims to promote a message of zero tolerance towards men purchasing sex.

November 2014 - The Turn Off the Red Light campaign gains steam as Minister Frances Fitzgerald announces 27 November 2014 that she is looking to introduce the criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services into the Sexual Offences Bill. Campaign partners are encouraging local politicians to support the minister’s decision as it is a welcome step in ending the violence women involved prostitution and sex trafficking endure. The Minister for Justice publishes the Heads of Bill for a Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, which includes measures for criminalising the purchase of sex as recommended by the Justice Committee.

October 2014 - At an EU Anti-Trafficking Day event hosted by the Immigrant Council and attended by many TORL partners, Ireland’s Minister for Justice & Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, came out in heavy support of ending prostitution and sex trafficking via criminalising the buyers of sex: “If the demand for the services of victims can be reduced, and hopefully eliminated, the business model of trafficking can be significantly undermined.” Northern Ireland passes a law criminalising sex buyers with a vote of 81-10.

September 2014 - A Child Grooming bill was developed by Deputy Corcoran Kennedy that proposes up to 14 years imprisonment for those exploiting children, following the TORL campaign ideology. Supporters included the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Ruhama, and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Jimmy Carter addresses a letter to the Oireachtas Justice Committee urging members to consider legislation that criminalises sex buyers. The Turn Off the Red Light campaign gains two more members, Tearfund Ireland and YWCA Ireland, totalling 72.

June 2014 - Canada passes a law to criminalise those who purchase sex, keeping campaigns to end sex trafficking and prostitution going strong.

May 2014 - Turn Off the Red Light reaches 70 members as Cork Feminista and ASCEND Domestic Abuse Services Tipperary join the campaign. The coalition now has a combined membership of over 1.6 million people.

April 2014 – The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) votes in favour of a resolution entitled “Prostitution, Trafficking and Modern Slavery in Europe”. The resolution passed with a large majority and recognized the inextricable link between the phenomena of prostitution and trafficking, and supports the Swedish model as a way addressing trafficking and exploitation in the European sex trade. Critically, the resolution also called for resources to be devoted to “exit programmes” for women seeking to leave prostitution, which would include counselling, legal and health services.

April 2014 - A majority of the Northern Ireland Justice Committee votes in favour of Lord Morrow’s “Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill”, including clause 6 which would criminalise the purchase of sex. Turn Off the Red Light as well as many of the campaign’s partner organisations submitted evidence to the committee and were called to testify in Stormont in the months leading to the vote.

March 2014 – The Immigrant Council of Ireland launches the Stop Traffick! Report- Tackling Demand for Sexual Services of Trafficked Women and Girls in collaboration with four European partners. The report researches the attitudes and characteristics of buyers of sex, and issues a wide-range of recommendations as to how the demand which fuels sex trafficking could be tackled. A key recommendation is that the purchase of sex be criminalised, as buyers identified this as one method which would deter them.

February 2014 - MEP Mary Honeyball’s Report on “Sexual Exploitation and Prostitution and its Impact on Gender Equality” is passed by the European Parliament in a milestone for gender equality throughout Europe. The Report passed by 343 votes to 139, with 105 abstentions, and found that violence is inherent to the system of prostitution. It also pointed to the Swedish model as a successful approach to tackling trafficking, supporting women who are in prostitution, and changing the public mindset to one where purchasing sex is not acceptable.

February 2014 - A full meeting of the Turn Off the Red Light Coalition is held at European Parliament Buildings, Molesworth Street, with all partners and politicians invited. The partners hear from survivors of prostitution Rachel Moran and Justine Reilly, and discuss future campaign strategies.

December 2013 - The French National Assembly votes to enact a bill which would criminalise the purchase of sex, while removing laws criminalising solicitation. The bill must be approved by the French Senate. When enacted purchasing sex will be a crime, subject to a fine of 1,500 Euro for the first offence and 3750 E for further offences. The bill also includes measures to support women trapped in the sex trade and dedicates resources to exiting strategies.

December 2013 - The Supreme Court in Canada strikes down the country’s prostitution laws as unconstitutional, and gives the Canadian government a year to produce new legislation.

October 2013 – The European Women’s Lobby hosts a conference in the European Parliament on the Brussels’s Call to MEPs “Together for a Europe Free from Prostitution” supported by over 200 NGOs from around Europe and over 60 MEPs.

September 2013 –  The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings published a report on Ireland’s implementation of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. GRETA received shadow submissions from many NGOs and interested members of civil society, including many TORL members, which had a clear influence on the recommendations made in the report. In particular, TORL welcomed the following of GRETA’s recommendations:

  • For the Irish authorities to review the policy of accommodating suspected victims of trafficking in accommodation centres for asylum seekers
  • That the Irish government ensure that avenues of compensation are easily accessible to trafficked persons
  • GRETA recommends formalising the role and input of specialised NGOs in the identification process of victims of trafficking

June 2013 – The Joint Oireachtas Committee published its report ‘Report on the Review of the Legislation on Prostitution in Ireland’, which unanimously recommended that a law should be passed criminalising people who pay for sex, along the lines of the Swedish model. The report made a series of other recommendations for legal reform including increasing penalties for trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

December 2012 – The Joint Committee begins its hearings on submissions received, continues to sit for 6 months.

July 2012 - The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality invites written submissions from interested groups/individuals on the review of prostitution legislation. The Committee received over 850 submissions.

June 2012 –  The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter announces publication of Discussion Document on the Future Direction of Legislation on Prostitution. This follows Shatter’s announcement that he will be arranging a public consultation process as part of the review

February 2012 –  Following on from the RTE Primetime documentary ‘Profiting from Prostitution’ members of the TORL campaign were invited by the Group of Taoiseach Nominated Senators for an Emergency briefing with members of Dáil Éireann on Wednesday 8th February. 21 TDs, Senators and representatives attended.

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, commented on the Prime Time programme in the Dáil order of business Wednesday 8th February.

He said Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter is looking at how the purchase of sex can be criminalised and the Criminal Law Offences Bill should be published with this in mind.

January 2012 –  The ICI met with a number of TDs to brief them on the campaign aims and objects, the current status of the legislative reform and to ask them how they would like to be involved with the campaign.

October 2011 – On the 12th of October 2011, the group of Independent Senators appointed by the Taoiseach brought forward a Motion to the Seanad on the criminalisation of the purchase of sex inIreland. As a result of the motion, the Minister for Justice released the Dept of Justice and Law Reform report, prepared after the study visit toSweden (Dignity project delegation, September 2010). The Minister further commits to six months debates and development of a legal framework that suits the Irish legal system.

July/August 2011 – Photographic exhibition “Not Natasha” organised by the ICI and curated by FOMACS in Creation Arcade venue in Dublin. Images of girls survivors of human trafficking, their families and surroundings in their native Moldova. The exhibition attracted a wide audience and support for the TORL. Senators and other political representatives visited and expressed commitment to the campaign.

May 2011 – Meeting with the UK Labour party’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Fiona McTaggart. The meeting discussed the strategy behind the legislative step to protect women and girls in the sex industry and to reduce the demand in the UK.  Meeting with Vera Baird QC (Solicitor General of the UK 2007-10).

Political briefing in Buswells hotel, attended by 42 politicians, among them three Minister of States and the political advisors of Minister Pat Rabbitte and Minister Joan Burton.

April 2011 – France’s government announces its intentions to introduce laws criminalising the purchase of sex.

March 2011 – Launch of regional focal points and campaign locally (Limerick) – great publicity and Minister for Trade and Development, Jan O Sullivan, came to show support.

February 2011- Dignity Conference (Gaps in response to human trafficking – need to tackle demand), February 2011

February 2011 - Press conference with high profile men from unions, arts, business, NGOs and media.  Great publicity generated with public commitment from Labour Deputy Pat Rabbitte to legislate if in new Government.  Event supported by launch of campaign website (www.turnofftheredlight.ie) and radio advertising campaign

November 2010 – The Irish Country Women association formally announces strong support for the campaign

September 2010 – Dignity Project (a EU funded initiative of the Immigrant Council and Dublin Employment Pact) sponsors a delegation to Sweden. Delegates from the Dept of Justice prepare a report to the Minister following the study trip. The content of the report is unavailable. The Minister says (in response to a parliamentary question) that it will be available after the Attorney General has considered it.

August 2010 – the UK Association of Chief Police Officers’ report “Setting the Record” published, confirming that majority of women in prostitution are migrants (in some areas their number reaches 94%), and issuing a statement that 2/3 of them are extremely vulnerable despite the small number of officially identified trafficking cases

June 2010 – Evaluation of the Swedish legislation published

April 2010 – The Labour Party Conference passes a motion in support of the national campaign against demand in Ireland, to the effect that the Labour Women policy on prostitution becomes a policy of the whole party

April 2010 – UK Policing and Crime Act came into force, criminalising the purchase of sex from coerced individuals; changing the lap dancing club regulations

March 2010 – The Lord Mayor of Dublin hosts a meeting for TDs, senators and councillors at which the ICI and the Dignity Project presented their work and the demand campaign outline

March 2010 – The Green Party annual conference discusses sex trafficking with ICI representatives on the panel, and positive and encouraging view were expressed on the upcoming campaign

March 2010 – Iceland bans lap dancing clubs and strip clubs

March 2010 – ICTU passes a motion supporting the criminalisation of the purchase of sex in Ireland, and pledges to support of the national campaign against demand in Ireland. This motion is adopted at the ICTU all-Ireland conference in Belfast.

February 2010 – Escort Ireland sends Valentine’s cards to local and national politicians asking them to support their petition for the legalisation of brothels. ICI responds in a letter to all politicians and received strong support from respondents.

February 2010 – Irish brothel-keeper TJ Carroll is sentenced on a number of prostitution-related charges, but not trafficking charges, in Wales. Submissions to the Court depicted a situation in Ireland which reflected the findings of the research, “Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution: The Experiences of Migrant Women in Ireland”.

December 2009 – End Prostitution Now campaign launched in Glasgow (www.ednprostitutionnow.org).

November 2009 – Sex Worker’s Alliance formally launched

November 2009 – Fine Gael Private Member’s Motion calling for revision of the current prostitution regime, exploring the models in Sweden and in the UK The Minister for Justice stated that the emerging public debate on the Swedish model is useful. Encouraging the relevant Oireachtas committees to study the Swedish model, and link with the Dignity project.

November 2009 – Conference with a focus on demand under the Dignity umbrella. A high-ranking Swedish police officer gave a presentation on policing of the Swedish law and its impact on prostitution and sex trafficking in Sweden.

October 2009 – Labour Women Motion – A Labour Women conference passed a motion calling for the criminalisation of the purchase of sex. This motion is in line with the general policy paper on Violence against women adopted by the Labour Party in 2006.

January 2009-December 2010 – DIGNITY project in progress – A joint initiative of the ICI and the DEP receives European funding. A consortium of government and non-governmental bodies is established that will explore and implement best European models of service provision for women and girls who are victims of human trafficking. ICI works closely with the Anti-Human Trafficking unit and the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

September 2009 – ICI trains the Legal Aid Board (LAB) – The ICI delivered a two-day training programme for legal practitioners from the LAB in Ireland. The National Action Plan to Combat and Prevent Human Trafficking in Ireland, identified the ICI as the national expert group that is best positioned to train the members of the LAB, that will be the statutory agency entrusted with delivering legal aid to victims of human trafficking in the State.

August 2009 – ICTU hosted Summer School in Waterford, where Denise delivered a presentation on human trafficking. A view was expressed that the Irish Trade Unions do not consider “sex work” and “prostitution” to be a vocation and will never get involved in organising people involved in prostitution into a professional union.

June 2009 – The NACD (National Action Committee on Drugs) published a report analysing the experiences of women drug-addicts involved in street prostitution. The Sex Workers Alliance announces their support for the Legalisation of prostitution campaign.

June 2009 – Conference “The Dilemma of Demand” co-hosted by the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Irish Human Rights Commission. Attended by representatives of the police, the Department of Justice, the main domestic and international NGOs, as well as by many foreign embassies.

June 2009 – During a debate in the Seanad, the Minister for Justice expressed his concern that the criminalisation of the purchase of sex will infringe on the rights of the sex workers in Ireland.

June 2009 – Senator Ronan Mullen brought a Private Member’s Motion for the Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex.

April 2009 – ICI published a report “Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution: The Experiences of Migrant Women in Ireland”, sponsored by the Religious Sisters of Charity. The report showed that:

* The sex industry has expanded and has now an estimated value of €180m per annum.

* The indoor sex industry dominates the commercial sex market in Ireland

* An estimated 1000 women a day are involved in indoor prostitution

* About 90% of all women in indoor prostitution are migrant women

January 2008 – Ruhama invited Agneta Bucknell, former head of the Prostitution Unit in Sweden to Ireland, to a press conference in order to promote legislation to criminalize the purchase of sexual services.

October 2007 – The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) received funding from the Religious Sisters of Charity and commissioned ground-breaking research exploring the Irish indoor sex industry.

2007/8 – The debate on prostitution gained prominence again in 2007/8, when the Houses of the Oireachtas discussed the then-proposed Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007 and, in particular, the opportunity to criminalise the purchase of (sexual) services from trafficked people, in order to meet certain requirements posed by the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

2006 – Grainne Healy and Monica O’Connor, leading Irish women’s rights activists, published a handbook emphasizing the links between prostitution and human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

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