EWL News

Ireland: Ruhama welcomes landmark move by France to criminalise the sex buyer and calls on the Irish government to follow suit

[Press release of Ruhama, Ireland, 4 December 2013] Ruhama strongly welcomes today’s landmark vote by the French National Assembly to enact an anti-sex trade bill which criminalises those who buy sex, but removes the laws that make soliciting for sex an offence.

Sarah Benson, CEO, Ruhama, said; “As a frontline service working directly with those affected by prostitution in Ireland, this measure will have far reaching impacts. This signal from a major European country with similar legislation to our own, gives a powerful message that there is a continuing shift to focus on the demand that fuels the exploitation of the sex trade.”

The law has been approved by the lower house of the parliament and will now travel through the Senate. It is highly likely to be carried given the support of the National Assembly who are the equivalent to the Dail in Ireland. When enacted, it will become a crime to pay for sex, subject to a fine of €1,500 for a first offence and €3,750 thereafter. To try to protect those in prostitution, the new law also decriminalises soliciting, and offers help by resourcing services to support and assist those trapped in the trade.

France is following in the footsteps of Sweden, Norway and Iceland who have all enacted legislation that criminalises the sex buyer but not the women, men and girls involved in prostitution. This law recognises that, in the vast majority, those involved in prostitution are vulnerable and exploited individuals, and instead of criminalising them, offers assistance by resourcing services to those trapped in the trade.”

Paying for sex in France has not to date been illegal, although brothels, soliciting and pimping are. France is thought to have at least 20,000 persons in prostitution. Far fewer than the 400,000 or so, believed to be across the Rhine in Germany, who took the very different route to legalise the sex trade, including pimping in 2002. Germany’s own federal report of 2007 concluded that the law has not been a success and activists and politicians alike are calling for a rethink of the country’s response to prostitution.

Sarah Benson stated: “The situation in Ireland is very similar to that in France. While we are seeing increasingly poor and vulnerable migrant women trafficked and pimped, making up the majority of those in prostitution, and an increase in organised crime; we have still not opened the ‘Pandoras box’ of the sex trade as countries such as the Netherlands and Germany have. In those countries there is a sex trade that cannot be controlled or regulated due to its sheer scale and the degree of criminal involvement. We have a chance to act now to minimise the size of the trade, hit out at organised crime.”

Sarah Benson said: “We have had the debate in Ireland over the last number of years and there should be no impediment to enacting our own law to criminalise the sex buyer and decriminalise those in prostitution. There have been 800 submissions made to Government, and weeks of public hearings from all sides. We have a report from the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Justice which unanimously recommended a similar measure. At this moment also, the Northern Ireland Assembly is considering a Bill to criminalise the purchase of sex.”

Sarah Benson concluded: “Every day that we wait, women and girls are suffering behind the closed doors of apartments and hotel rooms just because of the demand for sex from a minority of Irish men, who neither care to ask not recognise the harm they are causing and the organised crime they are fuelling.”



  • Available for interview: Sarah Benson, CEO, Ruhama – 086 600 3115
  • Available for interview: Gerardine Rowley, Communications & Policy Manager, Ruhama 086 259 1247
  • Wally Young, Young Communications, 087 247 1520

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