Committee on Gender Equality

Wed, Apr 6, 2022

Read in 3 minutes

Neasa engaging with the Minister for Equality before the Joint Committee on Gender Equality on the issues of sex work, and separately the right to identify as non-binary.


Neasa Hourigan TD: In the case where legislation is proving to actively possibly exacerbate the situation, and I am particularly thinking of our 2017 sex work legislation and the Amnesty report that seems to imply - similar to the research that we saw in 2017 when we passed that law - that it, in fact, leaves often women, but sex workers more generally, more vulnerable to sex-based violence, is that an area that would be included in the kind of work that the Department would be doing

Minister Roderic O’Gorman: I understand that when that legislation was passed there was a requirement for a review of it to take place within three years. That review is under way at present. Shortly after I was elected, I certainly made submissions to the then Minister for Justice on the terms of reference of that review, and particularly that the views of sex workers would be considered and all impacts, positive or negative, of that legislation would be considered. That review is under way at present. That does not fall within my Department. It falls within the Department of Justice. I, equally, await the outcome of that review.

Neasa Hourigan TD: I am glad to hear that we will be listening to the experiences of sex workers on that.

I have a follow-up question. Something the assembly asked us to bear in mind when placing this before the Oireachtas was that everyone must be supported in achieving their own potential regardless of their gender identity.

Many households in the country are receiving the census documents at present and are being asked to tick boxes for data in that regard. While we have come a long way, there are areas where we do not really recognise people’s right to identify as non-binary. Would that be included in the scope of some of this work? I am particularly concerned about data collection, public health data collection, disaggregated data and also in the sphere of education and many other areas.

Minister Roderic O’Gorman: Currently, my Department is working in conjunction with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on a new equality data strategy. That is important for ensuring that we have data that allows us to do deep dives on particular minority communities where, within the wider disaggregated data, particular issues affecting them might not be picked up. That data strategy should also address the issues referred to by the Deputy. I recall school boards of management changing forms to ensure that when it comes to incoming students identifying their gender they were entitled to identify as non-binary. All data collection mechanisms for the State should be similarly designed.

Ivana Bacik TD: Before calling Senator Ruane, it is important to note, as the Minister has confirmed, that there is a separate review under way of Part 4 of the 2017 Act in respect of the provisions on prostitution. There might be different views in this committee, but I certainly was a strong advocate for criminalising the purchase of sex to deal with the exploitation in prostitution, particularly of women. However, it is beyond the remit of this committee as it is not within the 45 recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly. It is the subject of a separate statutory review

Neasa Hourigan TD: To be clear, Chair, I would consider gender-based violence in general to include the issue of sex work, regardless of whether a review is ongoing.