- Sex & Drugs
- 06 Apr 23
Linda Kavanagh, communications manager of the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, released another letter of heavy criticism against Ireland's controversial Nordic Model laws, which sex workers claim makes them feel even more unsafe and overpoliced in their workplace.
A major murder investigation is underway after a woman in her 20s was found stabbed to death in Limerick on Tuesday.
The victim, who was from Romania, was discovered at an apartment at Riverdock House, Dock Road in the city.
Gardai said the results of the autopsy were not being disclosed “for operational reasons", while Garda Tech teams continue to examine the scene. Searches of the Dock Road and O’Curry Street have been carried out. The hunt for the murder weapon continues, and CCTV footage is also being examined.
A reliable source familiar with the investigation said gardaí were examining the possibility that the victim may have been targeted because she had worked in the sex industry.
Linda Kavanagh, communications manager of the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland has penned a powerful statement in response, released last night.
"The murder of a sex worker is the grim but obvious result of a law that disregards the voices and safety of sex workers," the statement begins. The law around sex work had been changed in 2015 to what is known as the Sex Purchase Law, or The Nordic Model, which criminalises the purchasing, but not the selling of sex in Ireland.
There have been numerous criticisms of the Nordic Model over the last number of years, with sex workers claiming the policy makes them feel more unsafe - given the violence occasionally inflicted by members of the police. By criminalising the purchasing of sex, it also means that sex workers are aligned with criminals, and also cannot work in pairs or groups or risk being labelled as a "brothel".
“When this law was being debated in 2015 and 2016, sex workers and allies warned that the law would increase violence against sex workers," Kavanagh says. "Since that time mountains of research, as well as the lived experiences of sex workers, have shown us to be correct.
“Everywhere the so-called Nordic Model has been passed, sex workers have been murdered. It has happened in France, it has happened in Sweden in the country of its origin, and now it has happened here.
"Client criminalisation laws reduce the number of clients while doing nothing to address the economic need which drives people to do sex work in the first place," Linda added. "Despite the misguided promises of those who support the law, the client now has the upper hand in negotiation – he is the one at risk of criminal prosecution. To get the client’s money, a sex worker needs to make him feel safe and deprioritise their own safety. This may result in risk-taking behaviour like not using a condom, or taking on clients that a worker would normally turn down. The industry is pushed underground, away from services that can help a worker in an exploitative situation."
Sex work happens whether you like it or not. The people who have sex to survive are telling us that the current legislation makes them more unsafe, they’re seeing a rise in violence and now a woman in is dead. Your moral view of sex work is not an excuse for making it more unsafe
— aoife moore. (@aoifegracemoore) April 6, 2023
Kavanagh also notes the increase in financial punishments.
"In 2017 the law also increased fines and added a jail sentence for so-called brothel keeping, where two or more sex workers share accommodation. Almost all sex workers we speak to want to work with another worker. Sex work is a cash business and working alone makes sex workers targets for criminals. Working safely and working legally are now incompatible.
"The laws surrounding sex work have made criminals of consenting adults and have done nothing to stem the rising tide of violence against women in Ireland. Those at the forefront of the fight against violence against women vocally support our misguided laws. They refuse to listen to sex workers when they say they want sex work to be decriminalised.
"When we hear of sex workers being murdered our immediate concern is the safety of the sex work community," the communications manager states. "What systems are in place for when something of this magnitude happens? It became clear to those of us in direct contact with sex workers day in and day out that there was not a Garda system in place. It was Ugly Mugs, advertiser sites and the community ourselves who spread the information about the attack and warned sex workers. A description of the possible perpetrator was given to the media before it was given to the community. Without organisations that constantly get called “the Pimp Lobby”, get refused funding, get shut out of policy decisions, and have our data and research ridiculed and laughed at (genuinely) the community would not know what was going on.
"Another migrant woman has been killed in our country, because of our laws. It is time for people in Ireland to demand the end to laws that put women, migrants, gender-diverse and marginalised people in harm’s way. We deserve better than a country that pushes people into sex work through the continuing housing crisis, lack of drug reform, lack of legal migration paths, the cost of living crisis etc and then puts people in danger when they chose to do sex work. People are desperate because of these concurrent crises. Violence like this is not inevitable, but the dehumanising language used around sex work contributes to it. We need to fully decriminalise sex work as a first step towards the safety of sex workers.
"Our thoughts are with her and her family."
Visit sexworkersallianceireland.org for more information.