Human Trafficking and Prostitution: Motion

I move:

That Seanad Éireann

recognises that the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation is a modern form of slavery and a form of human rights abuse;

notes that the Irish sex industry, which is worth €250 million a year (CAB, January 2011), is very damaging for the girls and women involved in prostitution;

notes that internet audits consistently show that more than 1,000 women are made available for paid sex on a daily basis all over Ireland and up to 97% of them are migrant women (Kelleher 2009);

notes that there is clear evidence of children who have been trafficked in Ireland specifically for the purpose of prostitution (Kelleher 2009; AHTU annual report 2010);

notes evidence from Sweden and Norway which shows that criminal sanctions for the purchase of sex are a proven deterrent to prostitution and consequently to trafficking (McLeodet al. 2008, Claude 2010);

further notes that International Conventions repeatedly call for efficient measures to deter demand for prostitution, which is recognised as an efficient approach to reduce sex trafficking (Article 6, Council of Europe's Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings 2005; Article 9(5), UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children 2000), and

proposes that the Government develops effective and appropriate responses to deal with prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation and calls on the Government to introduce legislation criminalising the purchase of sex in Ireland in order to curb prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The Independent Senators move to criminalise the purchase of sex in Ireland in order to curb prostitution and trafficking. The seven of us, four women and three men, are standing shoulder to shoulder to propose that the Government develops effective and appropriate responses, inclusive of introducing legislation, to deal with prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation. We do so with an acute awareness of the globalised nature of an industry, of which Ireland is a part, that exploits women and girls and some men and boys, and a conviction that the purchase of sex, mainly by men, should not be tolerated by an Irish society that is modern, fair, committed to gender equality and shows repugnance towards trafficking and organised crime.

We recognise that trafficking for sexual exploitation is a modern form of slavery and a form of human rights abuse. International and Irish research documents time and again acknowledge characteristics of slavery as they apply to sex trafficking and prostitution. Trafficking utilises a plethora of control strategies to ensure compliance by victims. These include deception in their recruitment — victims are often promised an education or good jobs — rape during their transport, issuing false papers which are then taken from them, placing them in clandestine captivity where they are under continuous surveillance, and a constant threat of physical violence to ensure they do not abscond, or that their travel debts will be paid.

I wish the House to consider two cases of human beings living in Ireland, as documented by Irish researchers. The first is that of Suzan from Sierra Leone, who at the age of 17 was raped by soldiers. At 19 she was offered work in Europe in the hotel sector by a family friend who arranged a false passport and other documents for her. The friend accompanied Suzan to Ireland and when she arrived in this country, she was taken to a house, raped by his friends and forced into prostitution. The second case if that of Kiky from Nigeria who arrived in Ireland as a 16 year old girl. I pause to note that research indicates that 11% of women trafficked into Ireland were children at the time they were so trafficked. Kiky's story started when she was offered a job as a domestic worker in London by a family friend whom her parents trusted. He and another woman travelled with Kiky who was told to call the woman "Madam". She was brought to a house where there were eight other girls and was forced to have sex with men without using condoms if that was what they asked for.

Prostitution in Ireland is a sophisticated and lucrative industry with more than 1,000 women made available for paid sex every day throughout the country. While it is difficult to estimate the numbers involved, as the Government amendment to our motion notes, the figure we note in our motion — a minimum of 1,000 — can withstand rigorous methodological standards. It is based on an Internet audit of women and those advertised as escorts, interviews with specialist front-line services and with those involved in prostitution.

Women and girls are moved from town to town and city to city in a carefully managed logistical operation. The Criminal Assets Bureau has valued the Irish sex industry at €250 million a year. Our current laws on prostitution are ambiguous and insufficient. The Garda Síochána policing plan for 2011 set out its commitment to proactively target groups and individuals involved in organised crime, including prostitution. There is also a commitment in the programme for Government to strengthen the powers of the CAB in regard to the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime. Legislation criminalising the purchase of sex would provide our law enforcement agencies with the tools to stem a large source of income for organised crime. The previous successes of the CAB in seizing assets of the drug trade could be replicated with regard to prostitution and trafficking.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland, in its 2009 report, Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution, states that trafficking for sexual exploitation and prostitution are inextricably linked. All of the 91 women and 11 children who accessed front-line services in the period 2007-2008 were trafficked into Ireland for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The supply and demand relationship between trafficking and prostitution has been confirmed by Swedish police sources who have stated that the Swedish ban on the purchase of sexual services acts as a barrier to human trafficking and procurers considering establishing themselves in Sweden. The Nordic Gender Institute has identified a halving of the number of sex buyers in ten years since the purchase of sex has been criminalised in Sweden and has indicated a reduction in organised crime in general. Surveys of men conducted by various researchers have also established that the greatest deterrent to the buyer of sex is a criminal sanction and/or the risk of exposure. I was present when Swedish and Norwegian police officers came to Ireland recently to provide a briefing on this matter. At that briefing, Detective Superintendent Jonas Trolle, the operational head of crime and narcotics surveillance with Stockholm police department, stated that it is now impossible to run a brothel in Sweden.

With this country's human rights record under the spotlight at the UN in Geneva last week, we must, as law-makers, be cognisant of Ireland's obligations under international conventions on this issue. The Council of Europe's Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children recognise that measures to deter demand for prostitution represent an efficient approach to reducing sex trafficking. These international human rights standards provide the backdrop to our call for Ireland to introduce measures to deter demand for prostitution as a means of curbing human trafficking. It is correct that in 2008 — the Government's amendment to the motion refers to this — it became illegal to buy sex from someone who had been trafficked as a result of the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Human Trafficking Act). To date, however, no one has been identified as a victim of trafficking under this law because no convictions for trafficking offences have been secured under its provisions. Furthermore, the Act does not provide for strict liability. This means that the purchaser of sex can use the defence that he did not know that the person from whom he was purchasing sex had been trafficked.

We have received representations from organisations such as Sex Workers Alliance Ireland and individuals who express concerns regarding the safety and welfare of and access to health care for people in prostitution that a change in the law might bring. I share such concerns and feel that it is important to ensure that, with the introduction of this type of legislation, appropriate supports will made available for people and that additional measures will be developed to facilitate their exit from prostitution. It is important too that women and men who come forward seeking assistance are not criminalised.

The motion calls on the Government to introduce legislation. The Independent Senators are dismayed by the tone and apparent direction of the Government's amendment. The Government indicates that there should be a considered public debate on this issue prior to the Government taking a decision. On an initial reading, this appears to be either a statement which, at best, delays indefinitely a decision regarding the introduction of legislation or, at worst attempts to claim that thestatus quo is working. This is coupled with some of the other notations in the amendment but I will await what the Minister of State has to say in respect of these. We want to publicly highlight the fact that there has already been significant public debate on this issue. That debate has intensified since the Immigrant Council of Ireland and its partners published the Irish research on this matter two years ago and since the establishment of a coalition of reputable organisations which is advocating for the type of change we suggest. I welcome the representatives from these organisations who are present in the Visitors Gallery. The debate on this matter has been inclusive, with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, his Department and the Garda Síochána all contributing. We understand from debates in the Dáil that the Attorney General has issued a legal opinion on criminalising the purchase of sex and that this is being considered by the Minister for Justice and Equality.

I should have welcomed the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch to the House at the outset and apologise for not doing so. I ask her to provide a timeframe for the public debate to which the Government's amendment refers. The debate is already under way. I also ask the Minister of State to indicate when the Government expects to make a decision on this matter, outline the further specific actions the Government will take to facilitate the public debate and provide an update on the Attorney General's opinion. Either she or the Minister for Justice and Equality should come before the House at a later date to deliver a judgment on this matter. Ultimately, this matter, which is informed by research, international standards and public debate, is one of legal and ethical judgment.

I second the motion put forward by Senator Zappone and welcome the Minister of State to the House for this important debate on it. I note with concern the amendment tabled by Senator Cummins on behalf of the Government. This amendment is an extraordinary example of the use of Orwellian language and deflectionary tactics to avoid a positive outcome to this debate. I call on the Government, which includes Fine Gael and the Labour Party, to introduce legislation that will criminalise the purchase of sex in Ireland in order to curb prostitution and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

I am a middle class Irishman who is almost middle aged. It is worth noting that those in the category of males in which I find myself are probably among the most frequent users of prostitutes, escort agencies and brothels in Ireland. The profile of men here who reported that they purchase sex — one in 15 — bears out international research that the majority of males — 61% — who buy sex are either married or in a relationship. It was not until I read about the Turn Off the Red Light campaign recently that I awoke from my own ignorance with regard to prostitution. Prostitution is not one of those things a liberal country should tolerate. We cannot turn a blind eye to it. As a father of teenage daughters, I realise that I have a responsibility to highlight this issue and to raise collective awareness of it among Members of this House in order end prostitution and combat sex trafficking in Ireland.

Sex trafficking is widespread here. As Ms Sarah Benson from Ruhama stated yesterday, at an excellent briefing attended by several Members, the fact that one can procure a prostitute anywhere in Ireland and have access to her services within 30 minutes provides potent evidence with regard to the pervasiveness of this problem. As well as that which occurs in established markets in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, Ruhama has come into contact with organised prostitution in places such as Edgeworthstown, Ballina and Tubbercurry. Women and girls as young as 14 are available to men such as me at the drop of a hand or the click of a computermouse.

Random searches of the Internet sites on which sex is sold indicate that on any given day of the week in Ireland, 1,000 women are available to the purchasers of sex. Up to 97% of these are migrant women. Is it because they are not Irish or we do not know them that we are slow to react to this problem? Is it because we know that the users or buyers of sex are people such as you and me, namely, parents, professionals, uncles and brothers? According to one study, men who buy sex from women tend to be highly educated, have incomes in the middle range and are employed in professional occupations. Earlier this year, the Criminal Assets Bureau indicated that the sex industry is worth approximately €250 million per year. The average price for sex in Ireland is in the region of €150 for half an hour.

The demand from men who purchase sex fuels the trade in trafficking women and girls and sustains the prostitution industry here. Any thought to the effect that women involved in prostitution in Ireland have made a free choice and are engaging in commercial transactions from which they benefit should be dispelled on foot of the information provided via the Turn Off the Red Light campaign. The physical and emotional pain these women experience, their concerns about their health and their future and their unhappiness are clearly documented.

What is the law doing? Some activities associated with prostitution are illegal in Ireland. I refer here to kerb crawling, soliciting, loitering in public places and living off immoral means. However, the buying and selling of sex is protected under the existing law and is viewed as a contract between consenting adults. What does prostitution have do with consent? Prostitution is a one-way street of abuse and rape. We must get rid of the romanticised view of the character played by Julia Roberts in the film "Pretty Woman" as being involved in some idyllic, age-old profession. Women who work in the Irish sex industry are modern day slaves and we in Seanad Éireann should do something about it. What money is buying is the right to override consent and obtain sexual gratification without the need to see another person as real. According to a briefing paper prepared by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, an analysis of over 1,000 reviews posted by men onpunter.net gives a clear indication of buyers’ attitudes. There is talk of good value for money, about whether a person was worth the price and a discussion of a woman’s physical attributes as if one was discussing the IKEA catalogue.

The Government's amendment is a watered-down proposal which sanitises the argument and is a passive act. Why does the Minister not bear witness? I ask Senators to support the motion as we need a definite time and a clear indication from the Minister that his Department is moving forward. I understand from some of the comments made in the media that any action will be slightly lacklustre; that there is talk about dialogue with the Attorney General and more referrals, about which I am worried.

The Government's amendment seeks a "considered public debate", but that is and has been happening since the start of the Turn off the Red Light campaign launched earlier this year. It includes over 20 Irish civil society organisations, including trade unions and non-governmental organisations, coming together under this banner. It is a considered and serious debate. It is an insult to imply, therefore, as the amendment does, that another considered public debate is needed, as that debate is already happening.

In 2008 it was made illegal, by means of the Criminal Justice (Human Trafficking) Act, to buy sex from someone who had been trafficked. Section 5 of the Act outlines the penalties for those who buy sex from a trafficked person, but this law is weak. A trafficked person is defined as a person in respect of whom a trafficking crime has been committed. There is concern that this may be interpreted as requiring the conviction of a person for a trafficking offence before somebody can be prosecuted for buying sex from the trafficked person. The Act does not provide for strict liability which means the purchaser of sex can use a defence that he or she did not know the person from whom he or she was purchasing sex had been trafficked. In contrast, the equivalent law in the United Kingdom, a policing and crime Act, imposes strict liability and the purchaser of sex from a trafficked person cannot use the defence that he or she did not know that the person from whom the sex was bought had been trafficked. This law was enacted in April last year.

The Government's amendment states we should recognise that legislation alone is not effective in preventing prostitution. I disagree and for that reason will call a vote at the end of the debate if we do not receive clarification and a timeframe for the introduction of legislation in one of the Houses. We have proof that legislation works and can protect the vulnerable, while reducing the incidence of human trafficking. The Government can act in a very simple way by targeting the purchasers of sex, or the punters. Tackling the demand for paid sex will combat the exploitation of women and children in the Irish sex industry. Having listened to considered public debate, the most effective way to do this would be to penalise the purchase of sex along the lines suggested by Senator Katherine Zappone and what has happened in Sweden. I commend the motion to the House.

Before calling Senator Bradford to propose the amendment, I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "human rights abuse;" and substitute the following:

deplores the sexual exploitation of any person, whether by financial means or otherwise, as an infringement of that person's human dignity;

abhors especially the trafficking of children for the purposes of prostitution;

while recognising the difficulties inherent in reliably estimating the extent of sexual exploitation and trafficking, notes the various estimates that have been made in that regard;

notes the extensive package of legislative, administrative and other measures undertaken over the past three years to prevent trafficking in human beings, protect the victims and prosecute the offenders;

notes that the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 makes it an offence for a person to solicit or importune in a street or public place another person or persons for the purposes of prostitution and that under that provision those who seek sexual services for payment from another person commit a criminal offence;

recognises the provision in the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 that makes it an offence to solicit or importune a trafficked person, in any place, for the purposes of prostitution;

notes that Ireland's legislation on human trafficking for sexual exploitation complies with EU, Council of Europe and other international instruments and that the penalties in this jurisdiction for human trafficking, including trafficking of men, women and children for the purposes of sexual exploitation, are severe;

notes the legislative provisions regarding prostitution introduced in Sweden and Norway and considers that the operation of these provisions, and other measures taken in other jurisdictions, should inform policy in this area;

in supporting all reasonable and effective measures to curb prostitution, recognises that criminalising the purchase of sex of itself within our legal framework raises complex issues which would have to be addressed, including the possible prosecution of individuals in circumstances in which a gift is given to a person with whom they had a sexual encounter;

recognises that legislation alone is not effective in preventing prostitution;

agrees that prior to Government making a definitive decision on whether legislation should be enacted reflecting legislation in Sweden and Norway there should be a considered public debate; and

proposes that the Government, in co-operation with the non-governmental organisations which carry out such valuable work in this area, continues to develop effective responses to deal with prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation.

I listened with interest to the previous two speakers who outlined in graphic and great detail the reason prostitution and the sex industry must be tackled in a firm fashion by the new Government. I listened to two very powerful presentations, but the problem of prostitution is hundreds of years old and the Government is only six months in office. It would need a little time to reflect before taking the decisions which we hope it will eventually take.

My friends on the Independent benches are concerned that the amendment is, in some way, a cop-out. We have seen many political cop-outs during the years, but the wording of the amendment and I hope the words we will hear from the Minister of State will allow all of us to recognise progress can be made and that a timeframe can be put in place to deal with the problem once and for all. Graphic figures were provided by the previous two speakers for an industry — if it can termed as such — worth over €250 million to the people making a perverse financial gain. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young women who are the victims of the appalling trafficking process and this problem must be addressed in a firm and final fashion. In that regard, I welcome the motion.

Before proceeding to the next step, it is important to have very strong public consultation and debate, although I appreciate such a debate has commenced. I also appreciate that we, as Senators, have received many representations and informed comment on the matter. There is a strong view as to how we should proceed. No matter what the politics are or how simple it would seem to be to draw a line in the sand, either politically or morally, we must take on board all arguments.

I read with interest the case being made regarding the progress made following the imposition of a ban in Sweden and it seems very convincing. We have all received representations from people who argue that what has happened in Sweden is not as perfect or successful as was hoped for or that lessons can still be learned. Before the Minister reaches a conclusion and devises a roadmap to legislation that I hope will lead to action being taken along the lines proposed by those behind the motion, we should have a higher level of debate and consultation.

A political message must be sent from this House that we are appalled at the number of victims of prostitution and the sex industry in this country. We are horrified by the trafficking of victims, generally young girls, and simply cannot allow it to continue. Decisive political and legislative action must be taken, but when we change laws in this country, we must do so only after giving worthy and serious consideration to the effect. We must also put in place the resources required to allow us to enact such laws fully. The Government is very much in its infancy and this is only one of many serious political, social and economic problems to be dealt with. I hope it will get it right rather than have it rushed.

I appreciate the sentiments expressed in the motion and sympathise with the idea presented. I hope the Government in the reasonably near future will be able to act along the lines suggested. I would like to hear from the Minister of State and hope she will outline a timeframe which the Minister and his colleagues see as appropriate. There is a grave social problem to which we cannot turn a blind eye, as we cannot ignore it and must do everything possible to solve it. Those behind the motion have outlined how it can be tackled and solved and I am sympathetic to what is being proposed. In moving the Government amendment, I suggest arguing a little time is needed for further reflection and consideration is not an excuse; rather, it is a reasonable intermediate response. This will give us space to find the solution we all desire. I, therefore, ask colleagues to reflect on the amendment and not to see it as an attempt to kick to touch but instead as the first step by the Government in opening a genuine debate which will result in the finding of a solution, not in three to five years time but in the near future. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

I welcome the Minister of State and thank Senators Zappone and Mac Conghail for their opening remarks on this motion and the Independent group for tabling it. I also acknowledge the work Ruhama, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Turn off the Red Light campaign have done on this issue over a long time, but in particular in recent months, and in building a coalition across all sectors of Irish society.

A debate took place at the Irish Medical Organisation's annual conference and doctors said action should be taken. A debate has taken place in ICTU, Barnardos and 40 organisations which have come together in a coalition and decided this is the right approach to take.

Fianna Fáil fully supports efforts to eradicate human trafficking and prostitution. In government we passed the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, which is acknowledged in the Government's amendment, that criminalised the trafficking in human beings for the purpose of exploitation. We also set up anti-trafficking units in the Department of Justice and Equality, the Garda Síochána, the HSE and the Legal Aid Board. By bringing in anti-trafficking legislation and procedures, we acted to address the supply aspect of the equation, as recognised in international conventions against trafficking. However, as Senators Zappone and Mac Conghail highlighted, trafficking is fuelled by the demands of the sex industry. If the sex industry did not have an insatiable appetite for children, teenagers and girls to be trafficked into this country, they would not be here. They are here because there is an appetite and a demand for them. Traffickers go to great lengths to break the law and get women into this country because of the demand. The Government amendment congratulates the work done on the supply side but to only look at that side is to completely miss the point. We must look at demand.

Senator Zappone highlighted the personal circumstances of women who have been trafficked into this country for sexual exploitation. Figures I have seen from Ruhama on the number of women involved in prostitution are deeply upsetting. Ruhama estimates that 1,000 women are selling sexual services in Ireland at any given time and said it has dealt with 140 women from 31 different countries, primarily from Nigeria but also from Romania, Albania and Ghana.

Many Members attended the excellent presentation by the Turn off the Red Light group and the Not Natasha exhibition. It brought home to us the personal stories. What the man does not see when he makes his nice, comfortable choice to fork out €50 for a woman's body, which is the only thing that is truly her own, is the woman who may have got into the industry at 13 years of age, who may have been abused at home as a girl, who may have children in her home country from whom she is separated and who may be afraid to get out of the industry because of what will happen to her children at home and of the gang which took her from her village and knows where her family live, which is the ultimate way to keep her under itscontrol.

People like to glamorise the sex industry and put forward the view that the woman is an equal partner in some kind of legitimate transaction but they need to think about the Not Natasha exhibition and about other girls and their stories. As Ruhama pointed out, the women involved in prostitution are some of the most vulnerable women in our society. Typically, they face huge economic difficulties, including crippling debts. They often have drug problems, many have been victims of abuse in childhood and most got involved in prostitution in their teens. Prostitution for them is not some kind of balanced choice; it is nothing more than a survival strategy.

As Senator Mac Conghail pointed out, by contrast, the men who buy sex have power, money and, at the end of the day, they go back to their nice lives and nice jobs unscarred while the woman is left with the impact of what has happened to her.

Our laws on prostitution are totally inadequate. Instead of recognising the woman as a victim, we stigmatise and criminalise her. I know men are involved in prostitution as well but it is predominantly women. We stigmatise and criminalise those who are involved and in doing so, we make it harder for them to exit the industry and for them to report abuse, seek help and access health and social services because they feel they have done something wrong. Our laws state that they have done something wrong because the law on soliciting applies equally to the man and the woman.

No approach will be perfect and Members referred to alternative views put forward by other countries. The reality is that the Swedish model has had a significant effect. They have managed to reduce the number of women and men involved in prostitution. The best part of the Swedish model is that it recognises that the woman is a victim and the man is involved in a relationship of abuse with the woman and it sends the right message. Beyond the harsh criminal penalties set out, it educates society that it is not okay to buy somebody's dignity or body.

Fianna Fáil supports the motion tabled by the Independent group. We agree, in large part, to the Government's amendment. At best we hope it is genuine in saying that it is looking at this as a serious issue and that it wants further debate. However, I do not accept there has not been public debate because, as I said, a range of organisations have been working on this issue quite publicly. We are concerned that there is no timescale in the Government's amendment. We hope the Minister of State will set out a clear mechanism for having a time-specific public consultation process which will mean a decision in the next few months and that this issue will not be kicked forward. If it comes to a vote, we will support the Independent group's motion.

I have been listening to the arguments of the Turn off the Red Light campaign, Stop Trafficking, in which I was involved in Cork, Ruhama and all the other NGOs involved in the campaigns down through the years and I sometimes think it is quite difficult to have a debate on the law in a dispassionate way in that one is dealing with a subject which is emotional, rightly so.

I fully accept it is quite difficult to have a dispassionate debate on the exploitation of children, whether male or female, and on women or men involved in prostitution, whether trying to earn a living, as a result of being trafficked or being used by other people. I also accept that there has been debate among various groups. The NGOs in this area have informed us extraordinarily well. The Government's amendment refers to bringing this to a broader audience rather than a broader debate, with which no one would disagree. That needs to happen.

I congratulate the Independent Senators on tabling this motion. It is an excellent subject for Private Members' time. I hope this debate, however it may pan out, will be the start of the political-public discourse that needs to happen in this area. It is very important that we start from here with the knowledge we have received from the debate up to this point. Those of us who have been involved with and informed by other groups have a degree of knowledge which can be brought to a wider audience.

I thank the Senators who tabled the motion on an issue which causes incalculable harm and acute distress to untold numbers of women and children. The amendment to the motion calls for a public debate on the issue of criminalising the purchase of sex. By tabling the motion, Senators have facilitated that debate and I will take careful note of what they have to say. There are more Members in the Chamber tonight than on any previous occasion I have been here. I am sure Members agree this issue should not be allowed to become a political football. We all share the desire to deal as effectively as we can with the immeasurable harm caused by prostitution and trafficking. This debate presents a useful opportunity to consider what measures might be effective because, even if there is not full agreement on the precise measures to be taken, we can at least advance an informed public debate on the issues involved.

Mental and physical harm and violence can be intrinsic to prostitution and women caught up in it experience objectification and dehumanisation. Many of the women involved in prostitution have limited life choices, whether because of poverty or the circumstances of their lives. They are often vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation by others. It is hardly credible to believe they are providing sexual services for a commercial return as a result of a free choice and the physical and emotional consequences they suffer make this clear. For the wider society, prostitution presents a serious social problem and, with increasing globalisation, an increasingly complex one. It is not always the case anymore that one can reach the women while they are on street. While I am concentrating on the plight of women caught up in prostitution, I am conscious that other forms of prostitution are equally objectionable and can exploit young men, in particular. The Minister shares the view expressed in the first part of the motion that trafficking for sexual exploitation is a modern form of slavery and a form of sexual abuse. The amendment builds on this by deploring any form of sexual exploitation which might be financial but could also manifest itself in other ways such as emotionally and which represents an attack on the core of a person's dignity. The amendment abhors, in particular, the trafficking of children.

This debate is taking place in the context of legislative changes in Sweden and subsequently in Norway and Iceland. In Sweden since 1999 a person who obtains or attempts a casual sexual relation in any place in return for payment commits the offence of purchase of sexual service. The legislation applies equally to men and women. In addition to money, payment can be made by means of, for example, alcohol or drugs. A person, other than the person who avails himself or herself of the sexual service, who provides or promises the consideration also commits an offence. I understand the penalties are a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of 12 months. The offences appear to be absolute liability offences, as there is no specific legal defence available to defendants. The legislation is focused on addressing demand for sexual services. The rationale behind criminalising the buyer rather than the seller is the prostitute is the weaker party and, therefore, being exploited. The main purpose of the legislation is to criminalise the purchase of sex and protect those who are or risk of becoming involved in prostitution. A second purpose which is regarded as equally important is to create an environment which promotes gender equality and human rights. I understand why that rationale is worth pursuing.

In July last year the Swedish Government presented findings from Sweden's first formal evaluation of its ban on the purchase of sexual services. The evaluation readily admitted that analysing the effects of the ban on the purchase of sexual services proved to be a difficult task because prostitution and human trafficking by their nature are clandestine activities and use of the Internet as a new arena for prostitution makes it difficult to assess its prevalence. Consequently, knowledge of the scale of prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes is limited. This is particularly the case outside Sweden's main cities. Despite these reservations, the inquiry team felt that it was possible to draw conclusions based on the material to which it had access. The evaluation concluded that the incidence of street prostitution had been halved since the ban, representing a real reduction in the incidence of prostitution overall. The ban is also believed to act as a barrier to human traffickers and procurers who might otherwise consider establishing operations in Sweden. Given the clandestine nature of prostitution and human trafficking, it was always going to be difficult to source reliable data to assess the effectiveness of the ban. However, even making allowances for this serious constraint and assuming there was sufficient material available to permit conclusions to be drawn, a number of critics have argued that the findings are tenuous, inherently biased and speculative. I mention these criticisms not to question the value of the experience in Sweden but to recognise the complexity of the issues involved.

Dignity is an EU funded research project examining services provided for victims of human trafficking with a view to replicating best practice models in partner countries, one of which is Ireland. In September 2010 Dignity arranged a trip to Sweden by a group which included representatives of what was then the Department of Justice and Law Reform and An Garda Síochána to discuss with officials and experts the Swedish legislation and its operation. A report was prepared by the Department for the then Minister following the trip and after consideration it was submitted to the Office of the Attorney General. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, has carefully examined the report, as well as the advice subsequently received from the Attorney General. He recognises there is public interest in the Swedish experience following the legislation introduced there. To inform public debate, he intends to make arrangements for putting the report in the public domain on Monday.

The current law relating to prostitution in Ireland contains offences which are aimed at the purchaser of sexual services, as well as the provider of such services. In this area, criminal law has traditionally had two objectives. The first objective is protecting society from the more intrusive aspects of such activity from a public order perspective. For that reason, under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 which codified the law relating to prostitution, it is an offence to solicit in a street or public place for the purposes of prostitution. The offence can be committed by the client, the prostitute or a third party such as a pimp. The second objective is to protect prostitutes from exploitation. Accordingly, under the 1993 legislation, it is an offence to organise prostitution, coerce or compel a person to be a prostitute, knowingly live off the earnings of a prostitute or keep or manage a brothel.

On a point of order, is it possible that copies of the Minister of State's speech could be circulated? That would make it easier for us to digest what is being said.

I apologise to Senators. I thought that had been done.

We will arrange for copies to be circulated.

The purpose of the law in this area is protection. It is, however, not an offence in itself to sell sex, nor is it, in general, an offence to purchase sex. Consequently, the general position is that neither party to the transaction is criminalised. Much of the motion refers to criminalisation of the purchase of sex in the context of trafficking. Trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a monstrous wrong and we must do everything we can to combat it. Thankfully, Ireland has strong legislation in place to combat the trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 gives effect to Ireland's obligations to criminalise human trafficking as set out in the various international instruments governing human trafficking. The Act provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of trafficking persons, including for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Specifically in relation to the sexual exploitation of trafficked persons, under the Act, it is an offence punishable by a fine or a term of up to five years imprisonment, or both, to solicit a trafficked person in any place, whether public or private, for the purpose of prostitution. A number of provisions in the Act also offer protection under the criminal law to trafficked persons.

It has been already pointed out that four dedicated units have been established in State organisations to address this issue. A dedicated anti-trafficking unit in the Department of Justice and Equality is working with other statutory, non-governmental and international organisations to co-ordinate and implement Government policy and to put in place arrangements to give effect to Ireland's international obligations regarding this issue. A dedicated unit in the national immigration bureau of An Garda Síochána has a lead role in the policing aspects of this issue. A dedicated unit in the HSE is developing and implementing an individual case plan for each potential victim. A dedicated unit in the Legal Aid Board provides legal advice to victims. Dedicated officials in the new communities and asylum seekers unit in the Department of Social Protection help people who are not in the asylum system but have been granted temporary residence to access a wide range of State services, such as accommodation and other State benefits. Furthermore, dedicated personnel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions deal with the prosecution of these cases.

Other measures that are in place include a national action plan to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings. The action plan, which was published in June 2009, covers the period up to 2012. The multidisciplinary partnership approach that is being pursued was exemplified by the establishment of a round-table forum of non-governmental, governmental and international organisations. Many of the measures being taken to address human trafficking have received favourable commendation nationally and internationally. Having said that, I do not claim that everything is perfect — we all know it is not — or that there is no room for more to be done. There is an absolute need for State agencies and non-governmental organisations, particularly those that support victims, to continue to work together to deal with this issue. The collective co-operation of all of these people will enable preventative measures to be put in place, victims to be protected and perpetrators to be apprehended and brought to justice. The Minister has assured me of his commitment to ensuring those goals continue to be met.

The law relating to prostitution is being enforced by An Garda Síochána. Some 67 cases of brothel keeping were detected in 2010. In the same year, three cases of the organisation of prostitution and 135 cases of other offences relating to prostitution, including soliciting, were detected. In the first half of this year, some 24 cases of brothel keeping, ten cases of the organisation of prostitution and 110 cases of other prostitution offences, including soliciting, were detected. An example of Garda activity is Operation Kerb in the Bridewell Garda district of the Dublin metropolitan region. This operation focuses on prosecuting people who solicit for the purpose of obtaining sexual services and seeks to divert women who engage in street-based prostitution. As part of the operation, the Garda established contact with a number of stakeholders, including the Probation Service and some non-governmental organisations. Ruhama's outreach van was deployed for additional contact with those involved in prostitution. As a result of the operation, over 60 males have been charged with soliciting offences. There also has been a series of Garda operations to target trafficking.

The motion before the House calls on the Government to introduce legislation criminalising the purchase of sex. While it is inevitable that there will be conflicting views about such a proposal, we all recognise that any proposal to criminalise the purchase of sex within our legal framework raises complex issues. Senator Zappone inquired about the legalities of such issues. A provision in the substantially different constitutional and legal framework of one jurisdiction cannot be simply transposed into another jurisdiction's constitutional and legal framework. In mentioning some of these issues, I am not dismissing the Swedish model out of hand but trying to ensure the debate on it and other international approaches is as informed as possible. That is what we need. If the Swedish approach were adopted in this jurisdiction, one party only to a two-party transaction between consenting adults would be guilty of an offence. The buyer only would be culpable and subject to penalty, with all that entails. The buyer would have no defence in law and the seller would not commit any offence in respect of the receipt of a consideration for sexual services.

Senators with a legal background will be aware that strict liability cannot apply because the Supreme Court has ruled that a defence must be possible. That is the difficulty. These are issues we are talking about and the Attorney General is looking at. One of the difficulties we have relates to strict liability. In its ruling on the CC case, the Supreme Court said there has to be a defence. It is not that the proposal is being dismissed — it is that this serious difficulty needs to be considered. As I said, if we were to introduce this law, the buyer would have no defence in law and the seller would not commit any offence in respect of the receipt of a consideration for sexual services. This is despite the fact that the seller may have been the party who initiated the transaction and been a willing party to the act. Criminalising one party only in this manner, if it was not clearly justifiable on objective grounds, could be open to constitutional challenge in this jurisdiction. By the same token, there obviously would be concerns about criminalising the sale of sex by exploited people.

As I said, the Swedish offence appears to be one of strict liability. Senators may recall that there are difficulties in this jurisdiction in establishing offences of strict and absolute liability, arising from the Supreme Court decision in the CC case. This resulted in the offence of carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 15, under section 1(1) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1935, being struck down. The defendant could not plead any defence and the girl could not be prosecuted. The court found that the form of absolute liability in the provision was inconsistent with the Constitution. Senators can read the remaining two pages of my speech if they wish. There are other issues at stake, but the question of strict liability is the one with which we will have the greatest difficulty. We will have to find a way around it and be very careful in doing so. We have to examine this problem. It will be part and parcel of whatever we eventually come up with. I know this is very important to Senators — it is very important to me as well.

The Dignity report will be published at the start of next week. That, with this evening's debate, should kick-start a broader debate. It is not that there has not been a debate — there has been a clear and informed debate. We need a broader debate about where we go. I spoke to the Minister for Justice and Equality before I came to the Chamber. Ultimately, that is where the matter will lie. He told me he is prepared to ask for submissions from the public as part of the consultation process. Not only will people be able to make written submissions, but they will also be able to discuss the matter at the public meetings around the country that I am sure various non-governmental organisations will arrange. All of the submissions will be considered by the Government, having been first presented to the Attorney General. The advice of the Attorney General will be brought to the Government. He is talking about doing that within six months. He feels that will give us sufficient leeway. We need to be realistic about the need to free up the bills office to deal with the amount of legislation that is coming through relating to our finances and the economy. We have to be realistic about that. All of that legislation is coming down the track at us. This debate needs to take place as part of the process of better informing the public. We need to deal with certain issues and arrive at a formula that allows us to deal with the question of strict liability. It is clear that it will be an issue. I welcome this evening's incredible debate. I appreciate very much what the Independent Senators have done.

The Minister of State is very welcome to the House. I do not know whether it is appropriate to start my contribution with a reference to St. Augustine.

One of my favourites.

Having listened to the Minister of State's explanation of the Government's position, I know her heart is in the right place. However, it seems very much to be a case of "Lord, make me chaste, but not yet". The Government is exuding a lot of support for the good intentions behind the proposal, but it is advancing some pretty thin arguments as to why it should not take the step reasonable people think it should take.

I draw attention to two points. First, the motion contains a bizarre warning — I am not sure from what kind of civil servant mentality it springs — against "the possible prosecution of individuals in circumstances in which a gift is given to a person with whom they had a sexual encounter". That is a perverse, twisted argument to make and it could equally be applied to drug taking. One could say we will not prosecute anybody for taking payment for giving someone drugs because they might have taken them together and one might have given the other a gift at the end. That argument insults our intelligence and calls the Government's bona fides into question.

The second point is that although I do not blame the Minister of State for it, I consider as bogus the reference to strict liability being an issue. I look forward to hearing Senator Ivana Bacik's contribution on this point. If one examines the jurisprudence, the decisions of the courts and the various arguments made, I do not believe the courts have in any sense found there is a problem with strict liability offencesper se in circumstances where what we are dealing with is an offence in the context of activity which is against public policy. The only difficulty I see is that the President might be tempted to refer the legislation to the Supreme Court for a ruling on its constitutionality under Article 26. The Minister of State should not worry about this prematurely, as it would be possible to get around it and legislate for strict liability offences in the way proposed.

I ask the Minister of State to consider the difference between the 200 and 20,000. Which would she prefer — the situation in Stockholm where only 200 women are currently involved in prostitution because it is a crime to purchase sex, or the situation in Barcelona where 20,000 are involved? A Swedish police officer, Detective Superintendent Jonas Trolle, participated in the recent round table seminar organised by Ruhama and the Immigrant Council of Ireland in order to brief various stakeholders such as the Garda, the HSE, the PSNI and so on. He made the point that prostitution was always connected with organised crime.

There are two reasons we should criminalise the purchase of sex. One is that by so doing we would help to make this country a cold house for traffickers, those who traffic others for the purposes of sexual or other forms of exploitation. There are those who argue that what one is trying to do in criminalising the purchase of sex is to target prostitution in order to deal with the narrower problem of trafficking. Reference was rightly made by Senator Fiach Mac Conghail to the British legislation. Some progress has been made in the United Kingdom because the British have provided for the concept of strict liability, whereby it is not a defence for a person to say he or she did not know the person from whom they purchased sex was an exploited person or subject to exploitation. That is going much further than we dared to go a few years ago in the human trafficking legislation in Ireland, legislation to which I tabled an amendment. It was pointed out at yesterday's briefing which I found helpful that a problem with the British law was that because one was required to prove a person had been trafficked, this made the burden of proof more difficult and that it was relatively onerous to secure prosecutions in circumstances where it was a summary offence. That is why the two issues arefite fuaite, interconnected. By targeting prostitution per se — the purchase of sex from others — one targets an activity from which traffickers and other criminals profit.

The second reason is that we would be targeting a social evil. The truth is that the sex industry lies to people as well as about people. It lies when it states people are absolutely free to do what they want with the bodies of others, provided certain technicalities are complied with to do with age and consent. We had discussions in this country recently about the importance of maintaining respect for the age of consent. Consent is a very difficult issue to assess, but there are categories in society which we know must be protected by insisting that in certain circumstances one simply cannot consent to something. The sex industry lies, therefore, when it pretends there is meaningful consent where a person from a background of poverty and perhaps abuse has been coerced or lured by the promise of a better life and is then gradually or perhaps quickly disabused of the notion she had about having a better and dignified life in a new and strange country by being deprived of access to family, friends, a common language or networks of support and protection. The sex industry lies when it states some good can be achieved for persons with a disability or who are socially inhibited by permitting them to purchase sex from others involved in prostitution. It lies when it denies that much deeper care is called for in all of these situations.

It comes down in the end to what we consider what the law should be about. Is it to be about the bare minimum of rules to allow members of society to enjoy maximum freedom and enjoyment of their lives and opportunities, or is it about something more proactive and protective, something which intervenes to secure social good for people, including their protection at the deepest level? There is a real danger we could minimise the concept of harm compared to issues we can easily identify such as rape or murder when we can see that a person has been harmed. I am often reminded of the phraseSlayer of the Soul, the title of a book by Stephen Rossetti to describe the impact of child abuse. Prostitution is also a murky area of life that involves people’s souls being destroyed. It was the columnist Breda O’Brien who asked in The Irish Times a few years ago what young girl grew up with an aspiration to some day to become involved in prostitution. What personal stories lie behind the technical consent given by a person involved in prostitution? What sickness is there in our society that, at a minimum, we do not see that we should discourage and criminalise behaviour which involves the instrumentalisation, the use and abuse, of another person in this most intimate and significant area of their lives, namely, their sexuality?

We have to get away from the laddish individualism that pretends that what we are dealing with are two consenting adults who decide to engage in a contract with each other. One can contract obligations in the sale of goods in certain circumstances, but one should never be allowed to try to induce another to contract in such a way as not to show fundamental respect for their basic human dignity. That is what is involved when we propose we should criminalise the purchase of sex from persons involved in prostitution. One is saying pimps and the users of persons involved in prostitution should be allowed to induce persons from an extremely victimised background to contract to avoid their entitlement to respect for their human dignity. It is an absolutely intolerable proposition.

The Senator is three minutes over time. As it was such an interesting speech, I did not interrupt him.

I will conclude by asking the Government, even at this late stage, not to press its amendment but to accept this eminently sensible proposal from the Taoiseach's nominees which could only do good.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, and thank and commend Senator Katherine Zappone and the other Independent Senators for bringing forward the motion. This is a very important debate that has been ongoing for some time, as acknowledged by the Minister of State and others. I also thank and commend the many NGOs which have been working on this issue for many years, notably Ruhama which has been working on the front line with women engaged in prostitution.

I commend the Turn Off the Red Light campaign which was commenced to bring to an end prostitution and sex trafficking in Ireland. Many of us, including the Minister of State, were present at the launch of the campaign in Buswells some time ago. The Labour Party is one of the 40 organisations which signed up to it. I am proud to represent the Labour Party, which fully supports the aim of ensuring the putting in place of legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex. All Members agree with the aim of the Independent Senators, which is to put forward a legislative model in Ireland that is robust, will work within our constitutional system and will ensure the same outcome that has been achieved in Sweden. Like other Members, I have read the ten-year evaluation of the Swedish legislation. I had been interested to ascertain how that model has worked and there were some highly positive and exciting findings, notably that street prostitution has halved in Sweden since the introduction of that legislation. Moreover, as others have mentioned, Norway has followed suit. However, as Senator Power acknowledged, it is vital to build a coalition on this issue and the success of the Turn off the Red Light campaign to date is that it has built a broad-based coalition of different groups comprising civil society groups, political parties, trade unions and so on. One must move forward with this united front to legislate in a way that will stand up within our system.

That said, it is understandable that many would have found the Government's counter-motion and its wording somewhat disappointing in that it appears to suggest there is no sense of urgency in moving forward to the legislative model. I assure the Independent Senators in particular, as well as colleagues on the other side of the House, this is not the Government's intention and certainly as far as the Labour Party is concerned, as the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, has stated, it will be pressing in government to ensure the introduction of this legislation. However, as the Minister of State also observed, one cannot simply transpose the exact same model from a very different legal system. Particular issues arise in this jurisdiction and one must ensure the legislation one introduces is robust. I speak as someone who has defended successfully some women accused of offences under the 1993 Act under which, as the figures demonstrate, it is extremely difficult to prosecute.

The Minister of State has clarified the wording of the motion and has assured Members there is a sense of urgency at Government level and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, has already taken some concrete steps to further matters. On Monday, he will publish the Dignity Project report arising out of his examination of the Swedish law and I understand that within six months, either the Minister himself or the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, will return to this House to report on progress that has been made. The Minister of State has referred to submissions being invited, which would be useful. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, of which Senator Bradford, other Senators and I are members, would be a useful forum in which to take submissions on potential models for the legislation and on how the legislation might be framed. The joint committee is doing this at present in respect of the vetting bureau Bill and will do so with regard to the withholding of information Bill. It is carrying out similar exercises on legislation that have complex drafting aspects and would be a useful forum. I am reassured by the Minister of State's statement to the effect there will be urgency in this regard and the Government will move forward in line with Labour Party policy and the intentions of the Turn off the Red Light campaign.

I will comment briefly on the history of legislation in this regard in Ireland. It has tended, the 1993 Act follows this model, to criminalise only the public display of the sale of sex and not the sale or purchase of sex itself directly and the Minister of State has referred to this. Our legislation prohibits loitering or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution, which of course means that those who seek to purchase sex, the clients, are criminalised and in some cases usually are prosecuted with more frequency than the women themselves. However, this is of course only where loitering or soliciting is done in public and there are quite difficult evidential barriers to get over when prosecuting. The origins of the Act date back to 19th-century law in which criminalisation of prostitution again was based on public order legislation. I refer to the Vagrancy Act 1824, which penalised the common prostitutes and to the horrendous Contagious Diseases Acts 1864 to 1869, which provided for compulsory incarceration for prostitutes.

The 1993 Act, which was introduced to try to reform the law, certainly was a great improvement on what had gone before when some horrifically repressive legislation had been in place. It did at least create gender-neutral offences for the first time and no longer simply criminalised the women. Moreover, as the Minister of State noted, it also introduced offences in respect of brothel-keeping, as well as offences that were much more protective of those who were engaged in prostitution. Unfortunately, however, it retained those traditional elements of loitering and soliciting and clearly the main thrust of the legislation was to try to control the display of prostitution in public. This concern perhaps was based on a political concern to protect neighbourhoods and so-called respectable society from this public display. The trafficking legislation, which was passed much more recently, shows the change in thinking and is much more concerned about protecting the victim. However, some evidential difficulties have also been identified with this legislation. This is also perhaps a consequence of the Supreme Court judgment in the CC case, with which some of us disagreed fundamentally, which overturned the strict liability offence of unlawful carnal knowledge and provided that a defence must be present where someone states he or she made a mistake as to the age of the underage child. This may be an issue that must be grappled with in framing a Swedish-style law prohibiting solely the purchase of sex or in other words, the Swedish model of criminalising the buyers that tackles demand rather than supply.

As the Government counter-motion, the Independent Senators and everyone else acknowledge, it is of course not simply about legislation and other ways must also be considered to tackle demand in particular, and to seek to end exploitation. I note the Turn off the Red Light campaign and others have been looking at ways of closing down telephone lines or websites because the manifest advertising of telephone lines or websites is perhaps the most obvious proof of prostitution. The Swedish evaluation demonstrates the potential that lies in the model being used there to criminalise the clients and to focus on demand. It also demonstrates a way forward away from the old model, on which Ireland has been far too reliant in the past, of criminalising only public display in criminalising loitering and soliciting in a public order sense. All Members are united in their desire to see a fundamental shift in the law away from the emphasis on public order and towards protection of the victim and a recognition of those engaged in prostitution as victims themselves, be they victims of trafficking or of exploitation even if they have not been trafficked. This is the great merit of the Swedish legislation and is what we must replicate in Ireland. However, the Government side can assure Members on both sides of the House that all are united in that aim. It is in this spirit that I second the amendment and I am greatly reassured by that to which the Minister of State has committed.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I support the motion tabled by what one might call the Independent Senators on the Government side. I fully respect and pay tribute to the work done by the Turn off the Red Light campaign. Moreover, when the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 passed through this House, I expressed to the then Minister my reservations that while the legislation was welcome, it did not go far enough. I was briefed by Ruhama at least twice before and during the passage of that Act through the House and it was with a heavy heart that, under the Whip, I walked through the Government lobby to bring into law the Act in its existing form. It is now time to revisit this issue. I do not wish to make a political play out of this and I respect the bona fides of the Minister of State. However, a significant case has been put forward by Senator Zappone and others, as well as by Senator Power, on where this issue is going. It is a kind of myth that this issue is new and a rethink is required. While I accept a co-ordinated approach must be taken to the subject, the entire area of prostitution, the plight of prostitutes and of sex for sale is at least 5,000 or 6,000 years old and has been well debated before this.

As for the trafficking of human beings and their unfortunate situations, I am given to understand by some NGO groups that in Ireland, a substantial number of the women who are involved regrettably have been brought from outside of Ireland from eastern Europe, Africa or wherever. In the case of some, I am unsure whether they are here of their own free will, etc. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 prohibited the purchase of sex from a trafficked person and it is time to examine the whole area of strict liability, which the then Minister trotted out at the time, and the advice of the Attorney General. While I do not blame the Minister of State, the legislation should be framed such that there should be aprima facie case against someone caught purchasing sex, mainly men. It would then be up to that person in a court of law to rebut that prima facie case being put by the prosecution — it might not need to be absolute. In that regard the man in question, who might be married or single, would need to explain in court to his wife, partner, daughter, mother or sister what had gone on. That in itself would certainly bring a fresh dimension to the whole area. I would say to the Turn off the Red Light campaign, Ruhama and others that they have achieved a considerable amount in even educating people such as us in the past decade. Whether it is today’s motion or otherwise, this is another tightening of the belt, so to speak, on this appalling situation. If they do not turn off the red light, they will certainly dim it severely and they must be encouraged to work in that direction, although we may never have a utopian situation.

Senator Bacik mentioned that the CC case was not entirely to her liking as a barrister. There is a strong view within the Bar Council and senior lawyers that the CC case if revisited in the High Court or the Supreme Court, if it is a constitutional case, might come to a different view. Perhaps a test case is needed as I believe the view expounded by the court in the CC case could and should be revisited. Law is not as permanent as a block of concrete; it evolves and changes, and precedent can evolve again. The Minister of State should not get totally bogged down. I know she must respect the Attorney General's views and advice, which imposes constraints. We can go a long way down the road in legislation to try to accept what has been set down in the Independent Senators' views. We should not be afraid of another challenge in the courts. If legislation is introduced and challenged, it might come as no great surprise to certain people that, if challenged in a test case in two, three or five years, it might be revoked.

As the justice spokesman on this side, I support the motion and if there is to be a division I will certainly vote with the Independent group. I thank my colleague Senator Power for leading off from this side of the House. I am here to support this appropriate and important motion. I laud the Independent group for tabling it. I do not want to be political and understand the Minister of State is anxious to revisit the issue. However, time is of the essence and we have wasted too much time in the past decade on the issue.

I welcome the Minister of State. To some extent I concur with much of what has been said here today. This is a grave social problem based on the abuse of human beings and in this case the abuse of women and girls. I compliment the courage of the Independent Senators in tabling this timely motion. It is time for us to view this as a very serious crime against women, not just making women victims, but making them completely inferior. Women enter prostitution on the false promise of a good job or a new life. They are sometimes sold by a partner or are kidnapped. They can find themselves in poverty and homeless and many have drug and alcohol addictions. I compliment the work of Ruhama. As the previous speaker said, it has educated us over time as have the coalition of organisations represented by Turn off the Red Light.

Prostitution is an industry and has become more high tech, which makes it more invisible and harder to trap. It is a global issue with people trafficked into this country from 31 foreign countries. There is also a European dimension which has not been addressed in the Minister of State' earlier contribution. If she responds later, I ask her to address how it is being tackled on a Europe-wide basis.

I fully support the legislation to penalise the purchase of sex. No woman standing here today could but support the evidence to show that the Swedish model is working. I ask the Minister of State to request the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, to as quickly as possible come up with a model of legislation that will not fall under constitutional challenge. I am pleased the Minister of State has put a six-month timeframe on that. If she responds at the end of the debate I ask her to state whether we will have a framework in six months. What will we have in six months? Before the Swedish legislation was introduced, one in eight men bought sex and that is now down to one in 40. There is clear evidence that it is deterring men from purchasing sex and in doing so reducing the attraction of sex trafficking. There was significant public support in Sweden with approximately 80% in favour of the Act. It is bringing about gender equality, which is difficult to do.

We need a wider public debate on the issue of the early sexualisation of girls. In a way that is a precursor to seeing women as prostitutes. As a mother of a young girl, I am very concerned about this. The ISPCC study published yesterday indicated that one in six second level students has physically met a stranger whom he or she first met online. Often when meeting it became clear that the person who did the enticing had lied about his or her age and identity, which links into very risky behaviour and the area of paedophilia. Parents are often unaware of what children are viewing not just when computers are based in bedrooms, which is often the case, but even when they are in living rooms. The study indicated that a person under 18 spends on average one to three hours daily on the Internet. Education is needed on privacy settings.

Yesterday'sGuardian newspaper reported that the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, is holding a summit on the dangers of the Internet. This has come as a result of the riots in the UK and his need to keep women voters happy. We must have a rigorous clamp-down on the sexualisation of children, particularly young girls. This involves advertising and the national broadcaster can play a role in this regard.

I completely support the thrust of everything that has been said here today. I support the amendment on the basis that we have a six month timeframe. I presume that we will have something back in this House by March 2012. I echo what Senator Bacik said in wanting to see legislation drafted with sufficiently good legal advice in order that it is not open to constitutional challenge. I look forward to tracking the progress of such legislation because we must put the dignity of the human being — the dignity of the woman — first. Such women are victims and are clearly being made to seem inferior by this age-old profession. I hate that term being used as a means to justify it. It is time it stopped and let us in this House act in unison to ensure that happens.

I welcome the Minister of State back to the House and commend the independent group for tabling this very important motion. I support its broad thrust and the sentiments expressed by the Senators who proposed and seconded it in a very forthright and passionate way. Human trafficking, primarily of women, but unfortunately, sometimes children and even a small minority of men, is cruel, inhumane, indecent, immoral and a form of modern-day slavery, as the motion states. It is important that all politicians do what they can to tackle this issue in a comprehensive way.

I listened to what the Minister of State had to say and the Government representatives had to say. I also listened to what Senator Mac Conghail said when he asked whether the amendment tabled was an attempt by the Government to deflect or to stymie the thrust of the motion — he used the word "insult" as well — or whether it was an admission by the Government that thestatus quo was working. He was very passionate on the issue and I support everything he said, but I must be fair and honest as well. I do not believe the Government amendment was an insult to the people who tabled the motion. I do not believe it is a statement from the Government that the status quo is working. Listening to what the Minister said and what the Government representatives have said, I think they are very genuine in their concern about this issue. No one in this House could stand over the trafficking of women or stand over the exploitation of women and children, and sometimes men as well.

However, I am torn because I believe it is important we do not rush into introducing legislation. I accept the points made that this issue has been in the public domain for a long time and has been discussed politically for many years, and I would have been part of many discussions about it. In fairness to the Government, it is a complex issue to legislate for. The Government should be given some time and space to come forward with legislation that is comprehensive, that will work and that will not have unforeseen consequences. Some people here may not agree with that, but I am of the view that because of the importance of this issue and because our objectives are the same — to end the exploitation and the trafficking of women — we have to be absolutely clear that whatever legislation is in place works and makes it impossible for people to traffic women. I want this to end. I want to make it absolutely impossible for anyone to be able to traffic women and use them in the most degrading way, as Senators pointed out. I find it abhorrent that this happens in any society. It is one of the most indecent things that can be perpetrated against any individual. However, we also must get it right. For that reason, I am minded to support the Government's amendment, not because I believe that the thrust of the motion tabled by the Independent Senators is wrong or damaging in any way but because I believe we need to give the Minister of State time.

The way out of this — it is something that was sought by the Independent group — is an explicit commitment from the Minister of State that she will come back and give a clear explanation on what the Government will do. If that was forthcoming from the Minister of State, perhaps the Independent Senators would also support the Government amendment. Senator van Turnhout said in her contribution that we are not going away. We are not going away.

She has not spoken yet.

I apologise. Someone said that we are not going away, and the point is that we can come back in three months and six months and if the Government has not acted, we can hold it to account. We can make sure the promise made today and the commitments we have received from the representatives of the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party, who spoke very passionately and who share our concerns, are upheld in six months. If the Government does not come back with legislation in six months, there is a responsibility on us all to come back here and put pressure on the Government, and I would then accept the thrust of today's motion. However, at this stage I cannot do so and for the reasons outlined, I will support the Government amendment.

I welcome the Minister of State. The impetus for this motion has been the tremendous work of the Turn Off the Red Light campaign to end prostitution and combat sex trafficking in Ireland. I commend the campaign for highlighting the intrinsic link between the demand for prostitution and the trafficking of women and girls to meet this demand. The majority of members of Turn Off the Red Light are civil society groups and NGOs that have direct experience of the devastating effects of prostitution on women, children and men throughout Ireland. These devastating effects are physical, such as sexually transmitted infections, injuries sustained as a result of beatings and rapes, gynaecological problems owing to multiple terminations of pregnancy and many other health conditions relating to prostitution. There are also mental and emotional injuries deeply embedded in the psyche of sex workers and victims of trafficking which are likely to be carried throughout their lives.

Senators Zappone and Mac Conghail have excellently outlined the views of our group, which I fully support. Therefore, in my intervention I will focus on the situation for children. As devastating as these effects are on adults, the impact is almost unimaginable for children and child victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. I have researched with interest some of the arguments against criminalising the purchase of sex in Ireland and I find myself wholly unconvinced by them. One argument contends that criminalising the purchase of sex in an effort to curb prostitution violates a sex worker's right to exercise self-determination over her own body. I must respectfully disagree. It is my belief that when the complex layers of how and why women and men find themselves selling their bodies for sexual gratification of others are peeled away, their paths into prostitution did not start with the simple exercise of their right to self-determination of their bodies. For those who argue that prostitution is an issue of consent, I would ask these people to be mindful that the age identified internationally for entry into prostitution is 14, an age at which consent cannot be given.

I would also like to highlight the situation for young homeless people. Focus Ireland estimates that there are as many as 1,500 young people under the age of 18 who are homeless each year in Ireland, 18% of whom are unaccompanied and one quarter of whom are under 12. There is inadequate resourcing in this area and there are an insufficient number of places for children in safe, sheltered accommodation. Some are said to be forced into prostitution. An increase in substance abuse among homeless youths, especially males, has also seen an increased recourse to prostitution and there is evidence to suggest that boys as young as 13 are involved in prostitution in Dublin city.

Separated children or unaccompanied minors are under 18 years of age, outside their country of origin and separated from both of their parents or their previous legal customary primary care giver. Separated children are an extremely vulnerable group owing to their status, the fact they may have experienced war and violence, and the danger that they have been trafficked into Ireland for sexual exploitation. There have been improvements in the situation for separated children in Ireland under the Ryan report implementation plan, and measures have been taken, such as DNA identification, to tackle false family reunifications.

However, the instances of children going missing from care are of deep concern. This morning in this very Chamber, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs told us that there are 16 cases of children missing in Ireland still outstanding in 2010 alone, and 11 of those are unaccompanied minors. There is strong anecdotal evidence that a number of these children could have been trafficked into prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. In September 2011, the Children's Rights Alliance submitted to the Department of Justice and Equality's anti-human trafficking unit collated case studies of suspected and confirmed child victims of trafficking in Ireland.

I will now briefly outline these cases which paint a picture of dreadful exploitation. They include the following: a 15 year old Somali rescued from a brothel in 2006 having been trafficked into Ireland; a 16 year old Nigerian girl who arrived to Ireland as a separated child in 2009 and was enticed out of HSE residential care by a man who later got her involved in prostitution; and a 16 year old girl from Burundi, held captive in a house in County Louth and abused. She was taken from her village in Africa at the age of 12 and introduced into sex slavery in different countries before being trafficked to Ireland for more sexual exploitation.

I have also heard dreadful accounts by an NGO, which were subsequently documented, of eastern European girls as young as 14 being trafficked to Ireland, brutally and systematically raped over a number of days to "break them in" and then shipped off to various brothels around Ireland. This intolerable situation is my motivation for fully supporting the motion proposed by the Independent Group.

As Senator Zappone has already mentioned, the sex industry in Ireland is extremely lucrative. Children continue to be victims of prostitution and trafficking because it is good business for organised criminals and traffickers. After much research into this issue I firmly believe that legislation is needed. I understand that the Minister says we need a wider public debate. I would like to say I am reassured by what I have heard both from the Minister and the Government side, but I am not. We have heard a lot of nice words and good sentiments but I would like to have seen much more detail in what is being put before us. I note the six month timeframe that is given to us and our group must still decide whether we will move this motion to a vote. We will certainly not be going away from this issue, however, because every day that passes there is a possibility of women and children being forced further into sexual exploitation in Ireland. We have to take action. We may have to allow the Minister of State some time, but it is a very short time because this is about human beings and people's lives.

I am delighted to welcome the Minister of State. I am confident that whatever happens, at the end of the day she will take the right decision. I assure my colleagues that I firmly support the campaign to end sex trafficking in Ireland. I thank the Independent Senators for bringing this issue to the House again. We discussed it previously in the last Seanad and had a good debate on it. I sincerely believe, however, that the matter has to go beyond the Houses of the Oireachtas and become a national debate.

I support the Government's amendment to the motion because the motion is too hasty. Within my own party I have seen decisions being made too hastily to criminalise purchasers of sex. We must study the Swedish model in more detail. If women are disappearing off the streets, it means the problem is going underground. Realistically, this has been going on since the beginning of time. We have to face reality. I am not condoning it but since the beginning of time sex has been purchased. There is a case for saying that women are perhaps being protected from rape because in some countries prostitution is legalised. Senator O'Donnell should not be looking at me in amazement like that.

I am giving my honest opinion. It is too hasty to say over one day's debate that we should criminalise the purchase of sex. That legislation would be totally wrong. We need a national debate with the people in Ireland, not just in here. We cannot be overwhelmed by the success of the Swedish model because there are many reports stating that the evidence of that model is not quite correct.

I commend the Immigrant Council of Ireland for lobbying to improve the level of protection and services available to victims of trafficking. I am totally opposed to all forms of trafficking, including labour and sexual trafficking. Many Senators may be aware that al-Jazeera is currently running a weekly programme called "Slavery: a 21st-century evil". It claims that there are more slaves in the world today than there were at the height of the transatlantic slave trade from Africa to the colonies in North and South America. The slave trade is now bigger than ever before. The most widely accepted international figure for the number of slaves is 27 million men, women and children. International experts, such as the academic campaigner Kevin Bales, have revealed evidence that it is cheaper to own a slave today than it was during the 19th century.

In order to have a national debate, we must listen to the other side of the argument. I am sure that all Senators have received e-mails from the Turn off the Blue Light campaign, which is a small, sex worker-led association. That organisation is campaigning for the health, safety, civil and labour rights of sex workers. They have expressed a desire to stop trafficking, abuse and exploitation within the sex industry. However, they strongly believe that criminalising the purchase of sex is not the answer and, in fact, would only serve to drive the sex industry further underground and make it more dangerous for everyone. The Turn off the Blue Light campaign asks that before the Government even considers bringing in new prostitution laws, it should consult that organisation's views.

I commend the Independent Senators for bringing this issue back onto the agenda, but as a true democrat I believe there should be no hasty legislation. I know I am right. That is why I support the Government's amendment recognising that legislation alone is not effective in preventing prostitution. It also agrees that prior to the Government making a definitive decision on whether legislation should be enacted reflecting legislation in Sweden and Norway, there should be a considered public debate.

Senator Mac Conghail stated there has been a debate but that is not correct. This matter has not entered the broader Irish public domain. I have not heard it there.

It will if we pass this motion tonight.

Ruhama has done excellent work but this matter has not hit the public radar or the concerns of the people.

The Senator should look behind her.

It absolutely has not. I appreciate that the Minister of State has agreed to put a timeframe on this and I accept that. It is important to support our Independent colleagues and there should be a timeframe. I know that the Independent Senators, as well as Ruhama and other groups, have the best of intentions but we must look at the other side of the issue. Why are men out there daily, from every strata of society, seeking quick sexual satisfaction? I would like to know why that is. Apparently, many of them are very happily married; therefore, there is something deeper wrong if they are living double lives.

As we have just 12 minutes left, I ask Senators to be as quick as possible. I call Senator Moran.

I may be last but I could be lethal.

Is the Senator concluding on behalf of the Independent Group?

I congratulate the Independent Group for bringing this extremely important motion forward. The Labour Party fully supports it. I also wish to thank those in the public arena who yesterday gave an excellent presentation in the AV room. As a parent of teenage children and an educator for over 20 years, several things were highlighted of which I was not aware. I must have been very naive to not have been aware of them. I am very grateful for the excellent information that has been given.

I acknowledge how well this issue has been highlighted and the telephone calls to Senators' offices to remind them. I congratulate all concerned on their excellent work.

This motion sets out the context of human trafficking for sexual purposes, implying it is one of the most violent and horrific crimes against humanity. The trafficking of women and young girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a form of 21st-century slavery and a total violation of their human rights. Trafficking of women and children for sexual purposes is a multi-million euro industry. Research from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime unmasks the extent of the problem of sex trafficking. Sexual exploitation usually forcing a person into prostitution is the most widespread form of human trafficking, constituting 79% of all recorded human trafficking cases. Up to one out of every seven sex workers in Europe is thought to be enslaved into prostitution through trafficking, and one in five victims is a child. This is an horrific statistic. Two thirds of victims are women.

Behind each of the statistics lies a real human being whose life has been blighted by violence, imprisonment and degradation, and whose family has suffered loss and bereavement as it can only imagine the fate of its loved one. Several of my colleagues have given excellent examples in this regard.

Women trafficked into Ireland are brought in by criminal gangs on the promise of a better life. On finding themselves in a world of prostitution and abuse, they are unable to approach the authorities as they fear they could be subject to deportation. The recent exhibition Not Natasha, hosted by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, with its harrowing images of women trafficked into the sex industry, offered a poignant illustration of the human tragedy of the women concerned. The trafficking of women and young girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation across the globe knows no geographical borders. Organisations such as Ruhama and the Immigrant Council of Ireland have demonstrated that Ireland is now a major destination for sex traffickers and they report that there are more than 1,000 women and girls for sale for sex in Ireland every day, 97% of whom are migrant women.

We need an enlightened and resolute response from the Minister of State to demonstrate that our society cannot and will not tolerate such cruel and violent acts against vulnerable women and children. Ireland has been slow to introduce legislation to criminalise human trafficking but, thanks to concerted campaigns by organisations such as Ruhama, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and women's and children's rights organisations in recent years, the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act was passed in 2008 and Ireland was eventually able to ratify the Council of Europe's protocol on human trafficking. However, it is now clear that we cannot tackle the issue of human trafficking without dealing with the wider issue of prostitution. The trafficking of women and children for sexual purposes is lucrative because there is a buoyant market. We need a complete review of legislation in this area. While legislation prohibits purchasing sex on the kerbside, it is not illegal to purchase sex in private. The vast majority of women who find themselves working in the so-called sex industry are not willing participants; rather, they are victims who, for various reasons, including a history of abuse through drug addiction, homelessness or debt, find themselves surrendering their human dignity and forced to undertake demeaning and degrading acts.

Gardaí in areas frequented by street prostitutes say they are struck by the increase in the number on the streets at certain times of the year. This is absolutely harrowing. September, which coincides with children going back to school, Christmas and the First Holy Communion season are cases in point. There is no glamour in this career for the women involved. Some 80% of women in prostitution have reported physical abuse and more than 60% have been raped or sexually assaulted. Moreover, there is significant evidence that the sex industry is associated with criminality, money-laundering and trafficking.

There are those who say the sale of sex between two consenting adults is perfectly legitimate and that it may be better to legalise prostitution. However, when such people are asked whether they would be proud to say their mother or sister was a prostitute, or whether they would encourage their daughters to take up prostitution as a career, they soon change their minds. Ruhama states the vast majority of women it comes across want to get out of prostitution, and independent research validates this assertion.

The sex industry is thriving because there is demand and those who create the market are not subjected to the rigour of the law. While activities such as kerb-crawling, brothel-keeping and living off immoral earnings are illegal in Ireland, the buying and selling of sex is not. It is clear the legislation needs a radical overhaul to deal with the 21st-century realities of the sex industry, which operates on the Internet, with so-called brothels being more transient.

There is really a need for legislative reform in respect of prostitution and sex trafficking. I fully support the call to introduce legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex and curb prostitution and trafficking. I will do my best to introduce it.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. As a rookie Senator, it is lovely to see her here. I have admired her work in the past and wish her all the best in her role.

It is very possible to have a debate on prostitution and trafficking that is without sentiment, passion and emotion because that is precisely what happens the people affected; they begin to lack emotion, sentiment and passion because of what has happened to them.

If Senator Bradford wants something rushed and not right, I suggest he read the amendment. It is probably one of the best examples of something that is rushed and not right. It is befuddled and does not state a case of which it is supposed to be certain. It shows very great uncertainty, which I find extraordinary given that we are talking about something as humane as this motion. Our motion states "the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation is a modern form of slavery and a form of human rights abuse". The amendment suggests we should include financial exploitation as a human rights abuse. This is an outrageous parallel because, while we know that all abuse is wrong, we know in particular that our response to the physical, mental and emotional abuse of women through prostitution and trafficking is at the core of who we are. If we were to parallel financial abuse therewith, we might as well say all of us have been desecrated, abused and violated by the banks. There is a very grave difference between those who are trafficked for sex and those affected by the power and greed of banks. There is no intelligible comparison. The comparison being made just adds to the uncertainty and befuddlement.

The amendment states that the Seanad "abhors especially the trafficking of children for the purposes of prostitution". We do not abhor anything "especially". This is a very bad use of an adverb. We do not abhor it at all; to abhor is to make a kind of weak assertion, rather like Senator Bradford's assertion that we are appalled and, therefore, in some way dilute the abuse. We do not dilute the abuse by language since we know the practice is appalling. We know, recognise and consider trafficking as criminal; that is all we need to say.

The amendment is incorrect in regard to the vacillation in estimating the extent of sexual exploitation and trafficking. There is an enormous amount of reliable, startling, up-to-date research, including qualitative, quantitative and on-the-ground research, in this area. Are we afraid to reference it, rely on it and use it? Some of the researchers, including on-the-ground researchers, and writers and purveyors of research are present.

The amendment states "Ireland's legislation on human trafficking for sexual exploitation complies with EU, Council of Europe and other international instruments". That does not mean it is working. Why does that mean it is working? The amendment also suggests our legislation on trafficking is "severe". In what way is it severe? Senator Zappone pointed this out. Where is the proof of the severity?

The amendment states curbing prostitution and criminalising the purchase of sex within our legal framework raises complex issues. All behaviour is complex. That it is complex does not mean we should not criminalise aspects thereof, especially those that close us down as human beings and do not allow women to stand up as dignified human beings.

Just because it is complex does not mean we should not criminalise aspects of it, especially those aspects which close us down as human beings and do not allow women to stand up as dignified human beings. Complexity must never be an insurance policy against the legalisation of criminality.

It is something of a clever and complex move into how we view pornography now because soft pornography has moved into our lives. It is a part of our language, dress, behaviour, advertising and marketing. It is a part of the way we are, a part of comedy and a part of the way we express ourselves. It is everywhere. It is interesting that the rise of soft pornography has taken place in parallel with the rise of prostitution and trafficking and as pornography becomes more acceptable, so do they.

It is also interesting that pornography has become ageless. There is no difference anymore and children are now mini-adults; they do not even wear different clothes. We find that we are suppressing them if we do not allow them into an adult world. It is as though shame has disappeared. This is what concerns me about the amendment because shame was not at the core of it and it does not sit anywhere in the amendment. Shame on us all that we even have need for an amendment. I will leave the House with that thought.

Thank you. You nearly caught the Chair out with that dramatic ending. I call Senator Cáit Keane.

I will skip all the niceties of welcoming the people to the Visitors Gallery and the comments on all the good work they have done. I must skip the list of people who have been offended by prostitution and people who have been trafficked as well. I must leave out all of these people because I have only two minutes to say my piece.

As a member of Fine Gael, I am supportive of further legislation in this area and it is necessary legislation. Even since the Irish Management Institute, IMI, conference in Killarney this year I have studied the issue steadily. We are keen to ensure that whatever legislation is enacted is proper. One thing we have not seen but which I am keen to see is the dignity report and the Minister has stated that she will bring it forward. It is an EU-funded report. The Minister has stated that she will publish it within the coming week or two. I am keen to see it come forward.

Everyone here has said how great the Swedish law is. It was enacted in 1999. I was at the brilliant presentation in the audiovisual, room yesterday on the matter and I thank the House for it. No person has been prosecuted under that law in Sweden as of yet.

Not true. Approximately 400 or 500 per year have been fined.

No, I was reading about it. This is where the confusion arises. I believe in what Sweden has done but selling sex in Sweden is legal. We are not going to go down the road of——

I am afraid we are over time. I must call the last speaker.

Sweden has a low rate of prostitution. I agree with banning it and ensuring the selling of sex or the purchase of sex is made illegal in this country. Selling sex is legal in Sweden and it has a low rate of prostitution. We must ensure what we do in this country. We have a constitution in this country. The Minister of State pointed out that our legislation is different from the legislation under the Constitution. The CCv. Ireland case brought it to light here and that is an important point for consideration. I have no wish to rush this.

There is a point to Senator O'Donnell's remarks. The amendment may have been rushed but there is a difference between rushing an amendment and rushing legislation that we cannot change later. I am keen to ensure legislation is in place and I will follow up on it. I will not take my eye off the ball and Fine Gael will not take its eye off the ball. It is in government with the Labour Party. Speaking as a member of Fine Gael I assure the House that we will keep our eye on the ball in this regard because it is as serious a matter to me as a member of Fine Gael as it is to any Member that has spoken today.

The Independent Senators understand there is no procedure for us to have a time-out. Is that correct?

Not with a vote. Some four minutes remain.

Once more, Senator Zappone is correct. Some speakers spoke within their time but some spoke for nine or ten minutes. We might have had time out to discuss our actions.

That is a strong observation. Senator Zappone will get her four minutes if the Senator does not interrupt her any longer. She is taking time from her. She has four minutes remaining one way or the other. Those are the rules of the House.

My point was that Independent Senators are of a mixed view with regard to arguments forwarded in respect of the amendment. I will come back to that issue. I acknowledge the extraordinary passion, compassion, logic, analysis and information taken by my colleagues on all sides of the debate. I hope this provides some evidence, especially to those with us this evening, that the Seanad wishes to engage with civil society in critical debates, that we hear what it is saying and that we are struggling with these issues. I am proud of all contributions in this regard.

I have not heard any strong arguments against the introduction of some form of legislation that would criminalise the purchaser of sex. I am struggling with the Minister's call that we require a period of six months to make a decision about it. Having said that I thank the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, who, I realise, has been involved in these consultations with the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch. I thank my colleagues as well but especially those who have informed us so well and who have conducted this coalition and campaign which has brought us to the point of trying to decide what we should do.

I propose that the Independent Senators are of a mixed view. Most of us believe enough time has passed in terms of the debate conducted. Some of us believe there should be a wider debate to give the Government six months and are not afraid of it. Some of us believe it would be worthy for the wider public to be with us in this call. Some of us acknowledge the complexity of a decision to introduce legislation. Having said that, most of us do not think this way. We are a group of Independent Senators. In this case with a mixed decision it has been decided that we will push the amendment to a vote.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 13.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O’Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • Power, Averil.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Katherine Zappone.
Amendment declared carried.

Arising from the inadvertent casting of a vote against rather than for the question by Senator Mary White, who is present, the result of the division, as shown on the display, has been amended with the agreement of the tellers for both sides. The amended results will appear in the Journal of Proceedings.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Ar 10.30 maidin amárach.