PROSTITUTION in Limerick city is a serious problem, involving hundreds of people and is tied to organised crime, Fianna Fail councillor Seán Lynch has claimed.
“It involves horrific abuse of women, men and children, the majority of whom are trafficked into this country by organised criminal gangs, “ he said.
And he cited the example of a young woman of 19 was dressed to look like a young girl and forced to work in what looked like a child’s room.
Cllr Lynch’s comments came following a meeting of Limerick City and County Council where he called for greater resources for Gardai in tackling the problem and for greater resources for those working with the victims of prostitution.
But he also called for the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2014 to become law. Those who pay for sex are the people who should be criminalised, he argued, not those forced to work in the sex trade. Once this happened here, he believed, the organised gangs would move out of prostitution as it would not be profitable any more. This had been the case in Sweden, he argued. “As long as there is money, there will be supply,” he said.
“The Government needs to approve this bill as quickly as possible,” Cllr Lynch said. However, he argued, that in order to enforce the law, a dedicated Garda unit was “essential” and he called for one to be set up in each Garda division. “The Gardai are doing the best they can with limited resources,” said the former detective. Without a special unit, the act is meaningless, he argued.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader, Cllr Lynch referred to a wave of prostitution between 2011 and 2013. “The majority of those involved were here as a result of human trafficking, coming from Eastern Europe,” he said. And it had had a negative impact on businesses in streets where it was taking place each night. He cited Catherine St in particular.
However, he believed the problem, which he said involved hundreds of cases, had now gone underground. Anti-social behaviour orders had been issued, he said. “The problem is now less visible but it still remains.”
It is the sex workers who are the victims, Cllr Lynch believed. “They are trafficked in by whatever methods whether it is forced or under false pretences. For many there are huge problems, such as language and many are absolutely lost, so much so that many don’t even know what country they are in,” he said.
Cllr Lynch acknowledged the work done by Doras Luimni and others in assisting the victims of prostitution and trafficking but said they needed resources to provide the structure of counselling and services these victims. This would be even more the case, he believed, once the Bill became law. “So many people could so easily be left behind,” he said.
At Monday’s meeting, however, Cllr John Gilligan (Ind) did not agree with Cllr Lynch’s approach. Prostitution was around as long as human beings, he said. “This was not a reason to do nothing,” he continued. But he believed both the buyer and seller of sex should be criminalised.
Karen McHugh, for Doras Luimní welcomed the council’s motion.”“Our clients are very vulnerable individuals who have experienced severe abuse and exploitation over a prolonged period of time,” she said. “ As stated by the council, we must target the ‘demand side’, and also the so-called ‘supply’ side - the factors which push people to become sex workers. We must also ensure there are adequate support services for prostitutes, and assistance to help them get out of the sex industry if they wish.”