New laws will ban payment for prostitution
While various activities associated with prostitution have long been illegal, the act of paying a person to engage in sexual activity had not been a crime in Ireland up until 27 March 2017. In the past, prostitution was generally viewed as a legal problem only when it manifested itself in the public domain. Hence, the legal regulation of prostitution tended to focus on issues such as public solicitation, loitering for the purpose of prostitution, brothel-keeping, and the advertisement of prostitution. Up until relatively recently, what happened in the bedroom had generally been regarded as legally irrelevant (provided all participants were of age and consented).
The model on which this is based is called the 'Nordic model' or ‘Swedish model’ given that it was pioneered in Sweden. The philosophy underpinning such laws is one that sees the client as exploiting the more vulnerable position of the prostitute, such that only the client is criminalised. The aim is to eliminate or reduce prostitution by discouraging demand. The hope is that potential clients will be dissuaded from risking a criminal record, and that demand for prostitution will decline.
It is possible that some people embark on a career in prostitution because they find the activity rewarding and fulfilling. It may also be possible to argue that the power dynamic is not entirely skewed in favour of the client (in the sense that the seller has something the buyer wants). It is likely, however, that at least some (even many) prostitutes feel they have no other feasible option to make ends meet than to engage in prostitution. Factors such as drug addiction and debt, amongst others, often propel people into prostitution, factors compounded by a lack of other more socially acceptable opportunities.
“In prostitution a woman ceases to be seen as a human being in the eyes of others and becomes a trapped mind that lives in a body that no longer belongs to her...I used [heroin] to block out what I had become but I witnessed the deterioration of other women over the years.”