Foreign women are being brought into Ireland for sexual exploitation.

Ruhama is a voluntary organisation that works with women affected by prostitution. This year they helped seventy women, twice as many as in 2003, and have evidence that women from poorer countries in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe are being trafficked into Ireland to work in the sex industry.  

Geraldine Rowley from Ruhama explains that while some women came to Ireland to make money, many of them were totally unaware of what was about to happen to them. Having had to hand over their passports, worse was to come, 

They were involved in high levels of sexual violence, and were involved then in prostitution. They had to make a lot of money for the pimp, and they were very scared.

Operation Quest, led by the Garda Organised Crime Unit targets organised prostitution, brothel keeping and associated offences including money laundering, on both sides of the border. A series of raids were carried out on Dublin lap dancing clubs at the weekend.  

Owners of lap dancing clubs say that the majority of women who work in them are well paid, well treated, and are neither subjected to sexual violence nor forced into prostitution. Angels is one club that was raided, and its marketing manager Richard MacDermot rejects the idea that lap dancing clubs are associated with prostitution.

Unfortunately there will be people that get into any industry who would for want of a better word be cowboys. That is going to happen in any industry but to say that it is part and parcel of the industry is a totally different thing.

Lap dancing clubs fall under the Public Health Amendments Act of 1890, which was designed to allow people to apply for licences when they wished to provide music or entertainment in a venue. This legislation is clearly outdated, and does not reflect the realities of Irish life today, says barrister Oisín Quinn,

The legislation doesn’t help the courts administer the system very well, it’s difficult to impose conditions.

As a result of the latest phase of Operation Quest, four clubs are due before the Dublin District Court charged with breaches of the Employment legislation.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 12 January 2004.  The reporter is Paul Reynolds.