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Home > Shifting the burden of criminality. An analysis of the Irish sex trade in the context of prostitution law reform.

O’Connor, Monica and Breslin, Ruth (2020) Shifting the burden of criminality. An analysis of the Irish sex trade in the context of prostitution law reform. Dublin: The Sexual Exploitation Research Programme UCD.

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This study provides empirical data on the commercial sex trade in Ireland in the context of the current laws on prostitution. The research was funded by the Department of Justice under the Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2018, with the intention of contributing to the evidence base to inform the 2020 review of Part 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 2017. This comprehensive study explores the profile of women in the Irish sex trade, their entry routes into prostitution, the demand of sex buyers, the nature and extent of organised criminality and violence within the trade, and criminal justice responses. 

P.39 For the majority of women on the streets, drug dependency is an intrinsic part of their routes into and their continued entrapment within prostitution. Although around 60% of the women they encounter in street prostitution disclose to Ruhama that they are using drugs, it is estimated by the service that the rate of drug dependency is much higher. Crack cocaine is the primary drug but often combined with alcohol and other drugs including heroin, methadone, benzodiazepines, painkillers, and other prescription pills. Women are funding their own and often their partner’s drug habit and are often paying off their own or their partner’s debts, or even those of another family member. For many women, drugs were one of the main reasons they entered prostitution in the first instance, but for some women, their drug use did not commence until they entered prostitution and began using to cope with what they were having to do with buyers. Dealers are often visible in street prostitution areas: ‘They hang around the area because they know the women will have cash and that they’ll be willing to spend it. And even if their intention is not to spend it on drugs, if there’s someone there in the moment when they have the cash selling it, it’s very hard’. (Outreach manager, Ruhama) ……

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