Turn off the Red Light Campaign

| January 16th, 2013

APT  (Act to Prevent Trafficking)  is a faith-based non-governmental organisation working to end human trafficking, with a particular focus on those trafficked for sexual exploitation. In addition to awareness-raising initiatives, it looks for effective legislation to prevent trafficking and provide better conditions of recovery for victims. APT has active links to similar groups at European and global level.

APT welcomes the publication of the ‘Discussion Document on Future Direction of Prostitution Legislation’  and appreciates the breadth of information it contains, as well as the objective and detailed manner in which it sets out the case for and against the various ways of legislating on prostitution.

We believe that demand is the primary driving force behind sex trafficking.  The way in which the state addresses the legal status of prostitution will have an enormous impact on efforts to curb trafficking.  For this reason we recommend that the purchase of sex be criminalised.

APT Submission

Link between Sex Trafficking and Prostitution

  • APT has seen that prostitution and sex trafficking are inseparably linked. The recent RTE Prime Time programme showed what a thin dividing line there is between the two. Women who allegedly entered the trade willingly had little or no freedom to consent. Poverty, coercion, deception – these are factors as is evidenced by research. (Kelleher et al 2009)
  •  The sex ‘industry’ does not differentiate between free and forced participation, and neither do those who buy children, women or men in prostitution. 
  •  The so-called sex trade, as well as the crime of sex trafficking, is a form of contemporary slavery and appears to be growing in the 21st century.
  •  APT holds that it is important for legislators to address prostitution as a root cause of sex trafficking.   

Trafficking and Prostitution of Children

  •  A report by the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (Dept of Justice and Equality) on human trafficking stated that in 2010 out of the 56 victims of sexual trafficking 15 were minors.  In 2011 the figures were 8 out of 37.
  • 75% of women in prostitution became involved when they were children. (Women’s Resource Centre, 2008).

Demand for sexual ‘services’

  •  APT (Act to Prevent Trafficking) believes that demand – the demand of the buyers for sexual satisfaction without responsibility – is the primary driving force behind sex trafficking and prostitution,
  •  Without this demand it would not be profitable for pimps, recruiters or traffickers to seek out a continuous supply of vulnerable people to exploit.
  •  APT takes the view that prostitution is sexual exploitation, violence against the person and a grave violation of basic human rights. The practices are extremely oppressive (e.g. Prime Time documentary, Farley et al 2003, Raphael & Shapiro, 2002, Sullivan, M. 2005).

 Reports from the UN, UNESCO and the European Commission show that where prostitution is legal as in theNetherlands, AustriaandGermany, the demand for prostituted women and girls is such that the local market cannot cope.

  •  Where prostitution is considered as ‘work’ sex migration becomes easy when girls and women can be coerced into demonstrating that they are coming for employment, or that they will be self-employed.
  •  Targeting the demand for the purchase of sex would lead to a decrease in prostitution, thereby allowing An Garda Siochana to focus on persistent and organised crime. Contrarily, where prostitution has been legalised, the illegal trade in sex has increased, especially through human trafficking.
  •  Therefore our key recommendation is to criminalise the purchase of sex, while decriminalising the seller – as in the Swedish model.  The positive effects of this have been shown in the Swedish High Level Evaluation.   (Erkberg 2008)

Present Legislation

  • Present legislation on prostitution inIrelandis based on considerations of public order and the sensibilities of ‘ordinary’ citizens with no concern for the well being of those prostituted. 
  • Whereas the Criminal Justice (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 has made it an offence to purchase sex from identified trafficked victims, the burden of proof imposed on the State has been such that there have been no prosecutions to date.  This measure is an ineffective deterrent for buyers of sex. 


  • Today, the terms sex industry/trade, sex work and sex workers have become current and imply an honourable status to what has been shown to be the worst form of physical, emotional and psychological abuse to which a human being can be subjected.
  • To call it work is to degrade the notion of ‘decent work’ as set out by the ILO:      Decent work has been defined by the ILO and endorsed by the international community as being productive work for women and men in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity…
  • To legalise and regulate prostitution as sex work would allow criminals and members of organised crime rings to become legitimate businesspeople with the state sanctioning the marketing of people’s bodies, something that would be repugnant to many, if not most, people.
  • The myth that male sexuality must be provided with/is entitled to/ a category of women, called prostitutes, who are legitimate targets for rape and sexual exploitation is still prevalent.  We consider that to legalise prostitution would add State support to and justify this gender-based fallacy.

To Reiterate:  

Prostitution is a demand market created by those who buy another’s sexuality for their profit and pleasure. It treats people as merchandise, a legitimate commodity, something that is completely repugnant to the Irish Constitution.  APT strongly recommends the criminalisation of the buying of sex as a necessary first step in addressing sexual exploitation in both prostitution and human trafficking.

Other Considerations

Discussion Document on Future Direction of Prostitution Legislation P.52  Q. 11  re: the ‘…undesirable social consequences..’

  • Stigma is associated with any crime, and is a reflection of the views held by society in general with regard to that activity.  If one uses this as an argument in the case of prostitution, why not in the case of any other crime?  In fact a criminal record, including the risk of public exposure has been identified by the buyers as a reliable deterrent of their actions. (Farley et al, 2011 & McLeod et al 2008)

Q.13  re:  ‘..discourage buyers from reporting suspicions..’

  • An Garda Siochana provides a confidential Garda phone and an email address.


A society is judged by how it supports the most vulnerable in the community. Taking steps to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable women and girls, boys and men through prostitution sends a message thatIrelandis a country where it is not acceptable for one person of means to buy another purely for their own sexual satisfaction. 

We recommend :

  1. Criminalising the purchase of sex, and those who promote and benefit in any way from this trade, e.g. pimps, brothel owners, and landlords who allow their premises to be used for prostitution. This deterrent would be strengthened were respect for the equality and dignity of all citizens to be upheld as a rationale for such legislation
  2. Decriminalising those who sell sex, and the provision of support services to assist victims of trafficking and those who wish to exit prostitution, so that they can provide for their needs with dignity and without the threat of exploitation, abuse or violence.
  3. Regulation of the role of the Internet and social media in promoting prostitution and sex trafficking.
  4. Introduction of public awareness education and programmes to send out a clear message that it is not acceptable for vulnerable people to be treated as commodities to be bought and sold for the sexual pleasure of others.
  5. An inter-departmental approach with Justice, Health, Social Welfare and Education departments working in collaboration to promote social and cultural initiatives to deter the demand that fosters sexual exploitation. 
  6. That the many international instruments produced over the past fifty years on human trafficking, violence against women, discriminatory practices, gender equality, and transnational crime to whichIrelandhas signed up, and ratified in many cases, apply when drawing up legislation, e.g. 
  • Convention for the Suppression of the traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949) 
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 1979  United NationsBeijingPlatform for Action (1995)
  • Millennium Development Goals
  • The Palermo Protocol (2000) to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially in Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime,
  • BrusselsDeclaration on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings – the Global Challenge for the 21st Century (2002) 
  • UN Commission on the Status of Women (2005) CSW
  • Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, Warsaw(16.V.2005)

To find out more about the campaign go to   www.turnofftheredlight.ie