September 24, 2016
In recent months, we have had various positive developments in the MECPATHS campaign to raise awareness of child sex trafficking in Irish hotels, as well as the Sisters of Mercy's other anti-trafficking projects.
Our campaign team is expanding with the increased involvement of the Kerry Stop Trafficking Group in the Southern Province, a group of lay associates joining ourSsister in the Dublin region, and a new Sister joining our team in the Northern Province. We have also received the endorsement of the new President of the Irish Hotels Federation. Our team continues to contact and visit hotels, focusing at present on certain urban areas - Limerick, Cork, Dublin airport – and various smaller towns in Cavan, Meath, Monaghan, Cork, Kerry, Roscommon and Mayo.
In May we held a training day led by ECPAT UK in the Mercy House on Baggot Street. This was attended by the MECPATHS team, representatives from various womens' and immigrants' organisations, the police, and social workers. The purpose of this training was twofold; to continue to build on our team's knowledge of this issue; and as a networking opportunity, as we continue to build relationships with the police and other stakeholders.
In June, we were vistited by Malin Roux Johansson from Sweden, whose organisation Real Stars runs a similar campaign to ours in raising awareness in the hospitality sector of sex trafficking. She spoke to a group comprised of the MECPATHS team, NGOs, police, and representatives of the hospitality sector about how her campaign operates in Sweden. She also told us about the impact on the sex trade of the groundbreaking legislation introduced in Sweden in 2000, now known as the Nordic Model, which criminalises the buyer of sex and decriminalises the seller.
Though MECPATHS is not an official member of the Turn Off the Red Light campaign, we support its mission to introduce Nordic Model legislation in Ireland. The Sexual Offences Bill, which includes provisions based on the Nordic Model, is still making its way through the parliament and is expected to be debated in the lower house before the end of October. With cross-party support, we had hoped it would have been passed by now but the campaign continues!
In August, I gave a workshop at the Young Mercy Leaders Pilgrimage in Baggot Street. This four-day event involved about 70 students from Ireland and America. The workshop highlighted the work we are doing in the MECPATHS campaign and also explored the issue of sex trafficking in the broader context of gender inequality.
Next month, to mark EU Anti-Trafficking Day on October 18th, MECPATHS members in collaboration with APT (Act to Prevent Trafficking) are organising performances of Diablo, a play written and directed by a woman from Belfast about the brutal reality of human trafficking and the sex trade. The play will be performed in five locations around the country over the course of the week of October 18. I will be interviewed on two local radio stations to help promote the play, and various local newspapers will also publish adverts and articles about the play and the issue of sex trafficking.
Messages to: Ruth Kilcullen