On March 27, the Sexual Offences Act finally passed into Irish law. The activists involved in its passage, including myself, had pressed for this law for anything between six and 10 years.
Here I was, on my way to deliver a public speech about the new dawn of women’s rights in our country, on International Women’s Day, and all I could think about was the women who were dead because they had no rights, or because their rights were seen not to matter, or, more to the point, because the rights of men to unfettered sexual access to women’s bodies had been tacitly approved for so many centuries in my country that we’ll never be able to count our women and girls who’ve died in the service of it.
We hear, over and over, about the shockingly high homicide rate in prostitution, and we should be shocked at a homicide rate that’s been recorded at 40 times the national average, but the truth is that homicide deaths in prostitution are only the tip of the iceberg. Suicide has also been found to be a significant consequence of prostitution, and every death in my circle was a result of drug overdose, cirrhosis of the liver or cervical cancer. There is also, of course, HIV. These ways that prostituted women die, taken together, outstrip the homicide rate by many, many times.