Irish escort site offers men chance to live out ‘wartime-inspired fantasies’ with women fleeing conflict

Men who buy sex in Ireland are directly responsible for human trafficking and the exploitation of vulnerable women and girls fleeing war in Ukraine, an international webinar has heard.

Escorts Ireland, the largest site of its kind in the country, offers men the opportunity to live out their “wartime-inspired fantasies” with Ukrainian women, Valiant Richie, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) special representative and co-ordinator for combatting trafficking in human beings, said.

The website reported a 250% increase in interest for Ukrainian women since Russia’s invasion, he said.

“War is great for the sex trade,” Mr Richie said. And sex buyers — including Irish men — are responsible for the demand that fuels traffickers.

Online searches for buying sex from Ukrainian women jumped by as much as 600% in some European countries since the war.

“One of the early and measurable reactions in Europe to the crisis were attempts by men to identify and have sex with women and girls fleeing the conflict,” Mr Richie said.

“The influx of vulnerable women and girls into Europe led to an immediate interest in men to exploit them.” 

This demand creates a strong incentive for sex traffickers to recruit and exploit Ukrainian women at scale. Tackling demand is critical in the fight against human trafficking, he said.

Punitive laws

Ireland’s laws which punish the buyer of sex is a crucial fist step in this, Mr Richie explained.

Most people first buy sex when they are under 25 and social media is being used to target young men and boys to buy sex. Platforms such as TikTok and Instagram should also be used to educate these young males about the horrors of human trafficking, he said.

Some 75% of trafficking victims today are advertised for sale online, so online platforms and advertising must also be targeted to end human trafficking:

Sex with a trafficked victim is tantamount to rape. It is exploitation.

The webinar was organised by Beyond Exploitation, led by the National Women’s Council, Ireland’s civil society campaign for equality and freedom from sexual exploitation. 

The vast majority (90%) of those fleeing the war in Ukraine are women and children who are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual exploitation, with some of them having already been sexually exploited on their journey to safety.

Beyond Exploitation coordinator Mia de Faoite said the Government must priortise action on this issue.

“This is a matter of urgency, women and girls are already disappearing into the hands of traffickers, many women have already been raped by soldiers or sexually exploited by buyers.

“We need all necessary safeguarding measures to be put in place as a matter of urgency and those tasked with the responsibility of tackling the demand must be resourced and supported,” she said.

Duty of care

“Once those fleeing war have arrived in Ireland, the Government has a duty of care to support them through the system and ensure they are protected from further harm.

“Beyond Exploitation calls on the Irish Government to ensure appropriate housing for all refugees arriving, taking into account the specific gender, age, and trauma needs of individuals. We also need to ensure adequate vetting of all host families and appropriate funding for organisations supporting women and children.”

The organisation is calling for an information campaign to counter and protect against bogus offers of support and a reform of the National Referral Mechanism.

Expert on human trafficking for sexual exploitation, Olena Zaitseva, a lawyer at the Centre for Democaracy, Kyiv, said: “The war in Ukraine has reminded us that no one is free from the risks of trafficking and sexual exploitation, especially as long as states do not seek to counter demand.

“The situation with Ukrainian refugees has shown that we will never be able to overcome human trafficking if we focus only on victims. We need to work with the root cause — demand.”

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