The Oireachtas Justice committee has recommended that the purchase of sex be made a criminal offence.

The exchange of money for sex is not illegal, but soliciting for it is, either by a buyer or seller.

The committee has recommended increased penalties for trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, as well as for those who organise or live off the earnings of prostitution.

It also wants to see gardaí given powers to have access to phone lines suspected of being used for prostitution and shut them down.

The committee said the accessing of websites that advertise prostitution should be treated in the same way as accessing sites that advertise or distribute child pornography.

It has held a number of hearings into possible changes to prostitution laws, which are under review by the Department of Justice.

Committee Chairman David Stanton said: "The committee is of the view that a ban on the purchase of sexual service can be effectively and efficiently enforced by the garda.

"The decriminalised status of those who sell sexual services is likely to help reduce stigma and barriers to seeking support from the garda and support services."