Learn more about the global sex trade

20 April 2020

Prostitution disproportionately impacts the most marginalised and impoverished women and girls across the world.

The sex trade in Ireland remains largely invisible – as are the women trapped within it. Prostitution can be a difficult subject to navigate and there are many polarising opinions on the most effective legislative framework to reduce the exploitation and inherent harm of the sex trade.

Ruhama has over 30 years of frontline experience supporting women affected by prostitution in Ireland, and our analysis is informed by these three decades working directly with women who have lived through violence, exploitation and trauma.

We believe in offering women viable alternatives to prostitution and we believe that the best legislation to reduce the exploitation, violence and trauma of the trade is the model which is currently in place here in Ireland. Sometimes referred to as the Nordic/ Equality/ Abolitionist model, our laws decriminalise those who sell and are on sale in the sex trade, while prohibiting the purchase of sexual access and third-party organising and profiteering.

The resources below have been put together to give people an insight into the global system of prostitution and sex trafficking. We draw on a wide range of resources from various sources. If you ever wondered what the Nordic Model is; why we advocate for the criminalisation of the purchase of sex; or why we consider prostitution to be so inherently harmful, dangerous and exploitative, these resources may be of interest to you.


A Penny for your Thoughts

Ruhama ran a campaign entitled What Irish Sex Buyers are Really Thinking in correlation with the A Penny For Your Thoughts project.

The campaign involves the advertisement of a silhouette figure called ‘Andreea’ with a phone number posted above on busy Dublin streets and three websites. Callers to the number are met with a voicemail from a bubbly Eastern European woman promising a fun, sensual time. However, the story takes a dark turn when ‘Andreea’ exposes that she has been trafficked into the Irish sex trade. See how Irish sex buyers respond here.

We Don’t Buy It

Our latest campaign, launched in March of this year is called We Don’t Buy It. Through the campaignwe aim to deconstruct and dispel widely held misconceptions and myths surrounding prostitution. Such as the fact that prostitution is ‘like any other job’ or that ‘most women enter into the sex trade by choice’. We know that the majority of Irish men don’t purchase sex and we’re asking them to stand against the lies and excuses that those who do surround themselves with. You can find out more about the campaign here. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Disrupt Demand

In 2018, the Immigrant Council of Ireland led a project entitled Disrupt Demand which focused on the analyses of successful strategies (primarily legal changes) with regards to disrupting demand for the purchase of sex in order to support efforts to prevent human trafficking for sexual exploitation. The Comparative Report: Disrupt Demand shows how measures to do deter the purchase of sex from victims of human trafficking and from women and girls exploited in prostitution compare to one another in Ireland, France, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Cyprus.

Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution: the Experiences of Migrant Women in Ireland

This is a summary of a study produced by the Immigrant Council of Ireland in collaboration with the Women’s Health project (HSE) and Ruhama. The focus of the study is women who are trafficked into and through the Republic of Ireland for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The mechanisms through which the sex industry is promoted and the ways in which sex buyers connect with women selling sex is explored. You can read the summary here.

Prostitution and trafficking in 9 countries: an update on post-traumatic stress disorder

854 people currently or recently involved in prostitution across 9 countries were interviewed for this far-reaching, decisive insight into the realities experienced by those in prostitution – whether they fit the definition of trafficked or not. ‘We found that prostitution was multi-traumatic: 71% were physically assaulted […], 63% were raped, 89% of these respondents wanted to escape prostitution, but did not have other options for survival. A total of 75% had been homeless at some point in their lives; 68% met the criteria for PTSD.’ Read the research by Farley et al. here. Check out the Prostitution Research and Education website here for more resources.  

Die Unsichtbaren Manner or The Invisible Man

This project created by German feminist Elly Arrow gathers citations and statistics from sex buyers around Europe on various forums in relation to legal brothels. The quotations are both insightful and grim and offer a look into the attitudes and behaviors of sex buyers from a number of nationalities. WARNING: contents include explicit descriptions of sexual violence, reader discretion advised. Access to the website can be found here.

Blog Posts

What is the Nordic Model?

This piece by The Nordic Model Now! outlines exactly what the Nordic Model is, how it came about and what the aim of the model is. It is outlined here along with a number of other useful resources.

Sex Buyers Comments Expose the Realities of Prostitution in Ireland

The piece entitled Sex-buyers’ comments expose the realities of prostitution in Ireland: the Equality Model is the only progressive solution takes sex buyers comments from a notorious Irish website and makes the case for progressive legislation known as the Equality Model or the Nordic Model that is in place in Ireland in the form of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.  The post highlights the protection that such legislation can offer to women in prostitution in terms of exit supports and Garda protection while dismantling a system based on male sexual entitlement and the exploitation of women.


The Kavanagh Sisters interview Rachel Moran

The Kavanagh Sisters were sexually abused by their father over two decades growing up in their family home. They now run a podcast that delves into the experiences of those who have suffered childhood sexual abuse. Last month, they interviewed survivor of the sex trade, author of the book Paid For and founder of SPACE International (Survivors of Prostitution Abuse calling for Enlightenment). Rachel eloquently recalls her traumatic childhood and how she was forced into the sex trade. Listen here.


The Mega Brothel

The series entitled The Mega Brothel can be accessed for free via Channel 4. It follows the story of a German chain of mega brothels where prostitution has been legalised and delves into the lives of the girls who live and ‘work’ there. The Telegraph also released an article featuring brothel owner Michael Beretin which can be found here. Beretins business partner Jurgen Rudolff, is now serving a five-year sentence for aiding and abetting trafficking.

The Dark Side of Davos

Last month The Times and Channel 4s Dispatches released their investigation into the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, Davos which they describe as ‘a den of prositution and predators’. In  Sex, Money and Power: the Dirty Secrets of Davos. Cate Brown investigates allegations of sexism and harassment and speaks with women who are fed up with their treatment by men at the summit. The reporting shines a light on the cruel juxtaposition and hypocritical nature of the summit with women attending forums and conferences on gender equality by day and fearing for their safety due the predatory behavior of the male attendees by night.


The Sex Economy

Drawing on extensive and detailed research in The Sex Economy, Dr. Monica O’Connor challenges the suggestion that the sale of women’s bodies as commodities can ever be acceptable, and that the male consumer has an acceptable right to buy their services. She lays bare the harm that “normalizing” the sex trade does to women’s lives, gender equality, and society as a whole, and exposes the realities that constrain and control women locked in prostitution, debunking the notions of choice and agency.

Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution

Written by Racheal Moran,Paid Foris a memoir by Racheal that explores her time in prostitution. She describes the fears she had while based in brothels and on the streets for the years leading up to turning twenty-two when she escaped. She is now a writer, campaigner and avid abolitionist activist.


‘They took me because they knew I would not be missed.’ A true story: Anna was snatched off the streets of London before being brought to Ireland and exploited in prostitution. Slave recounts Anna’s harrowing experience and how she eventually managed to escape and hold her traffickers accountable. Her story was also told in the BBC docudrama, Doing Money.

Pimp State

Pimp State by Kat Banyard explores issues such as the legalisation of prostitution, bodily autonomy and how online pornography is warping a generation of boys. She contends that treating prostitution as a job like any other is profoundly dangerous.

Sex in the City: the Prostitution Racket in Ireland

Sex in the City by RTE crime correspondent Paul Reynolds delves into the inner-workings of the organised crime gangs that run the sex trade in Ireland. It describes how the Irish sex trade as it stands came to fruition and how it grew to be worth millions of euro.

The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the sex work myth

Julie Bindel investigates the sex trade around the world and dismantles the myth that prostitution can be seen as a legitimate form of work when it is inherently exploitative. The concerted attempts to sanitise prostitution and gloss over the real harm of the sex trade are exposed, including in Ireland where convicted pimps continue to exploit women online.


The novel, Harvesting, was inspired by the author, Lisa Harding’s, involvement in a campaign against child sexual exploitation. Through the experiences of the protagonists, the story offers a glimpse into the underbelly of Irish society and the reality of sexual exploitation that is happening across the country. See also: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/how-can-the-arts-serve-social-awareness-and-activism-1.3696398

Other useful links

Sex tourism in the Dominican Republic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZyppB5xTn4&t=1s

Life in prostitution in India: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybgnSEx_-SA&t=125s

Trafficking Nigerian women into the Italian sex trade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K53A1opChlQ

Sex trafficking in Romania: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wEf7TpOIdU&t=2s

Full ‘Nefarious: Merchant of Souls’ documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFaDHgXPbUg&t=187s

For more information in relation to prostitution and the resources available to those affected by prostitution or sex trafficking, please see our website. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

If you are in the sex trade and are worried about your situation, you can get in touch with Ruhama by free-texting the word REACH to 50100 for a free, confidential callback. Alternatively, email [email protected] or phone: 0860223008 (weekdays, 9am-5pm) Out-Of-Hours emergency support: 0863813783


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