The last months have seen a disgusting campaign of stigmatisation and vilification of prostitutes in Limerick. Local business owners, such as rugby star Jerry Flannery, have taken to local and social media attacking prostitutes in the most vile of language, whilst the Gardai have begun a new policy of taking those selling sex to court to get civil orders banning them from parts of the city associated with on-street prostitution.
The left and socialists must stand completely opposed to this attack on those who sell sex, which does not deal with the factors that push people (largely women) into this horribly exploitative industry, nor does it deal with the pimps, who make huge profits from it or the worrying level of people (overwhelmingly men) looking to purchase sex.
In fact, all this approach of criminalising those who sell sex will achieve is to make it less likely that those who sell sex will report abuse, rape etc to the authorities. This is a particularly worrying development, given those selling sex are particularly vulnerable to abuse, largely not being from Ireland and lacking English and local supports. Rather than attacking the prostitutes, the state should be investing in outreach and centres to provide them with access to contraception, counselling and healthcare.
Local reports have described how one particular gang bring women, desperate for an income, over from Romania to work in brothels in the city centre under strict ‘supervision’. The decision to take 8 prostitutes to court unfortunately represents a turn away from a focus on targeting these pimps and the buyers of sex, which had previously been the case in ‘Operation Freewheel’, and is the first time such civil orders have been used against prostitutes in Ireland.
For a fuller discussion on prostitution, and what approach socialists should take, check out this article by Laura Fitzgerald