Home > Gender, Sexuality and the Law, Human Rights and the Economy > Sex Work and Drugs in Ireland: New Research

Sex Work and Drugs in Ireland: New Research

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs has published a fascinating report entitled Drug Use, Sex Work and the Risk Environment in Dublin, available here. In particular, the report makes a number of interesting findings about drug users’ reasons for working in the sex industry:

  • All the men and women interviewed were dependent heroin users prior to engaging in sex work; a significant minority were minors at the time.
  • There were a variety of entry routes into sex work; the dominant route being through peer or friendship networks. This often happened when the person had financial problems and their friend/acquaintance paved the way for them to become involved in sex work. For a significant minority of participants this introduction happened while homeless and/or staying in emergency accommodation.
  • For most of the participants the primary rationale for engaging in sex work was economic; to ‘make ends meet’ and/or ‘for the sake of me habit’. Sex work provided a source of income and hence financial independence. Moreover, it was often considered less risky than alternative sources of income, such as drug-dealing and shop-lifting.
  • The interface between participants’ drug use and their sex work was complex. The men and women interviewed needed a continual source of funds to maintain their (often multiple) drug dependency. For most, sex work proved very lucrative in this regard. However, the increased income obtained from sex work invariably contributed to an escalation in drug use.

Wednesday’s ‘Today With Pat Kenny’ featured an exchange based on the report between a representative of the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland, which advocates ‘a move away from portraying sex workers as victims and towards a realisation that many people choose to work in the sex industry‘ and a spokesperson for the Christian NGO Ruhama. The podcast is available here.

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