The national Irish campaign Turn Off the Red Light: End Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in Ireland has gained political momentum in the last six months. The Irish Senate (Seanad) debated a motion calling on the Government to criminalise the purchase of sex, in October 2011. As a result, the Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter promised a six month period in which he would announce a consultation to review the laws surrounding prostitution.
During that six month period, the campaign generated a significant amount of public support and attention to the issue of exploitation and trafficking for prostitution, which was boosted by two investigative documentaries on two of the national Irish channels showing the widely spread criminal-led sex industry and the dire situation of predominantly migrant women within it. On that occasion, the Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny commented that the documentaries “showed the appalling abuse of women throughout the country” and that “the Minister is also considering a number of structures under which the purchase of sex can be criminalised, as is the case in Sweden and a number of other locations.” (8 February 2012).
On the 18th of April, at the Seanad, the Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter informed that a public debate will be launched before the end of May, and outlined a one year timeline which would see a review of the ‘outdated’ law on prostitution and a possible bill put to the Parliament by the end of December. The Turn Off the Red Light campaign takes pride with this progress and welcomes the Minister’s commitment. They are now preparing for the period in which public submissions will be invited by the government to advise the framework of the proposed legislation.
The Turn off the Red Light has participated with information stands and workshops in major national events, including in the main political party conferences this Spring, and presently concentrates on mobilising the local authorities around Ireland in adopting motions in support of the idea. To date, 52 civil society organisations and unions have endorsed the campaign, meaning the idea has over a million supporters in Ireland. The alliance is a partner to the EWL campaign Together for a Europe free from prostitution.