It is a week since the horrific murder of Geila Ibram. A man has been apprehended in Northern Ireland and charged with her murder but there can be no justice when a life is taken so brutally.
Geila's death has raised, once again, the issue of safety for sex workers in Ireland. In 2017, Ireland introduced the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, which aimed to regulate sex work. The key provisions of the law include criminalizing the purchase of sexual services and related activities such as solicitation and advertising, while decriminalizing the selling of sexual services. The law also includes provisions for support services for those involved in sex work, such as access to social, health, and educational services.
Ostensibly, the law aims to protect those involved in sex work by shifting the criminal burden from sellers to buyers, and by providing support services to help individuals exit sex work and access healthcare. Supporters argue that the law addresses the exploitative nature of sex work and reduces demand for sexual services and human trafficking.
However, concerns have been raised that it can put sex workers at increased risk of violence, stigma, and discrimination by driving the sex trade further underground. Critics argue that the law may hinder sex workers' ability to work safely and negotiate their terms of service, and may lead to decreased access to healthcare and support services. Additionally, it is argued that the law perpetuates the criminalization of sex work, which they view as a violation of human rights and a barrier to addressing the health and well-being of those involved in the industry.
Whichever one's view, the murder of Geila Ibram makes it clear that sex workers are not as safe as they should be in Ireland. The main proponents of both sides of the debate seem to agree on this point, but differ on how to address it. At the risk of overly reducing a complex debate, the differing views are as follows. The Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland argue that the industry exists and always will and the law should allow for that and protect those working in it, and not make it less safe. Ruhama and the National Women's Council argue that the the industry is inherently exploitative and violent and protection of women follows from giving women a way out and eradicating the trade.
Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland statement - https://sexworkersallianceireland.org/2023/04/we-told-you-this-would-happen-says-sex-workers-alliance-ireland-about-the-murder-of-a-sex-worker-in-limerick/
Joint Statement by Ruhama and National Women's Council -
Research which examines the impact of the 2017 law finds that violence against sex workers has increased since it was passed. It shows a correlation but does not go as far to suggest causation. At this juncture it is appropriate, in my view, that the law is reviewed. This was promised in 2020 but is yet to happen.