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Exploitation rife during COVID pandemic
  • Deborah Condon

Women trapped in prostitution are at risk of being exploited even more because of the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline services have warned.

According to Barbara Condon, CEO of Ruhama, a charity that offers nationwide support to women affected by prostitution, sex trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, research has shown that 89% of people in prostitution “want to exit”.

“Our frontline teams know that most want an opportunity to leave. As we emerge from the pandemic, we must ensure that they are given the basic supports to restart their lives and be part of any social and economic recovery,” she said.

Ms Condon made her comments ahead of a webinar on Thursday, entitled ‘Sexual Exploitation in the Shadow of COVID-19′. The event has been organised by the Sexual Exploitation Research Programme (SERP) at University College Dublin (UCD).

The webinar will hear that the failure to offer supports to those who want to exit prostitution means that women are being trapped further in debt and are increasingly at the mercy of those who use exploitation, threats and abuse to generate profits.

“This webinar is an important opportunity for survivors, frontline services and human rights campaigners to speak out about the harsh reality of prostitution in our communities during COVID-19.

“While the rest of us take comfort and support from the mantra that ‘we are all in this together’, this sense of solidarity and belonging has been denied to those in prostitution,” commented Ruth Breslin of SERP.

Meanwhile, according to Jennifer McCarthy Flynn, head of policy of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NCWI), frontline services are ready to work with the Government to tackle this largely hidden problem.

“We are ready to work with the Government to support prostituted and sexually exploited persons through an emergency fund. Such supports could break the cycle of debt and poverty, which is a push factor deeper into a life of prostitution,” she noted.

For more information on Ruhama, click here.
For more information on SERP, click here.


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