Thursday, 20 November 2014

A letter to the Irish Times


I refer to the article written by Kathy Sheridan and printed on Wed 19th Nov.

As a “much-loved daughter of middle Ireland” myself, I strongly oppose the views expressed and the overall tone of the piece. I am an Irish sex worker with twenty years experience, so I can shed some light on the realities of the industry Ms. Sheridan seeks to demonise.

Perish the thought, but were a camera ever to catch my expression in flagrante, far from pain or disgust, the captured look would be far more likely to be one of abject boredom. The article goes on to question the reviews posted for sex workers, even pouring scorn on the chosen internet handles of some of the posters. What would Ms. Sheridan rather they were called, Tristan St. John Smythe ? Of course there will be some sexual connotation, it hardly marks them as monsters. If anyone is being disrespectful to those “receptacles” as they were beautifully termed, it’s the writer. The fact that a sex worker responded to a review with “tanks” just illustrates that sex workers come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Poverty drives women into the industry, and it is this which we “lefty liberals” must seek to eradicate, not consenting adults having sex. It’s very clear that Ms. Sheridan finds sex work distasteful, to put it mildly. However, this debate is not about how ANYONE feels about the trade, it’s about our right to work in safety, a right we are currently denied and will continue to be denied with the new legislation. Sex work is the only job which compels a woman to work alone. No-one would expect an A & E nurse to do a Friday night shift alone, and yet we are compelled daily.

The further assertion made that “significant numbers are drawn in as children under 18”, is false, and used by abolitionists around the world – “will no-one think of the children ?” Last year Turn off the Red Light repeatedly claimed that there were 19 victims of child prostitution in the Republic of Ireland. The then Minster for Justice Alan Shatter told them to stop using that because it simply isn’t true.

Finally, Ms. Sheridan speaks of those who can’t be doing with “peer-reviewed studies”. I find that assertion ironic, because the evidence from around the world points to decriminalisation as a preferred model to protect the most vulnerable in the industry. That evidence comes from the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS, The Lancet to name but a few.

It’s clear from recent communications from Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s office that it is her intention to press ahead with the criminalisation of clients. Were this to happen, those who are already vulnerable will suffer all the more as I explained to the Minister in person last week. In the end, good law must never be based on an ideological sending of a “message”, rather it should be based on evidence. Evidence which is in abundance.

Yours etc.

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