I was very saddened to hear of the death of Christine Buckley, the Irish-Nigerian woman survivor of Ireland’s gulags – the industrial school system run by religious orders. Christine has been battling with cancer and, in view of her suffering at the hand of the nuns during her childhood, her achievements are more than admirable.
Born in 1946 to a Nigerian medical student and a married Irish woman, Christine spent her childhood in several foster homes before a foster parent put her in the Sisters of Mercy’s Goldenbridge Industrial School, where she, like the other girls, was put to producing rosary beads for the nuns, where she was humiliated, beaten and not given a proper education. In the early 1990s, having survived cervical cancer, Christine decided to track down her parents. Encountering huge difficulties – the nuns were not amenable to share the vital information about her parents with her – she eventually managed to find first her Dublin mother, and then her Nigerian father.
I know quite a bit about Christine, as in 1996 my partner Louis Lentin, having heard an interview Christine had given to the Gay Byrne radio show, made contact with Christine, a meeting that led to the documentary ‘Dear Daughter’ about Christine tracing her parents and her experience in Goldenbridge. We lived with Christine’s story for many months, and when it was screened, ‘Dear Daughter’ had the highest viewing figures for any documentary on RTE, watched by a third of Ireland’s population at the time. Continue reading “Rest in power Christine Buckley – social reformer and fighter”
I didn’t really want to write about prostitution again. When I did so in 1981, research exposed a horrible world of sexual violation and violence. I didn’t really want to go there again, but was challenged by Patricia Kelleher who did the research for Turn Off the Red Light, the Immigrant Council of Ireland campaign. When articles by women who I had considered feminists started appearing in the press, defending prostitutes’ right to choose to work in the sex industry, and by implication, men’s right to continue to dehumanise and violate women, I felt I could not be silent any more. Reading Rachel Moran’s book, Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution (Dublin: Gill and McMillan, 2013), persuaded me to support the demand to fight prostitution by criminalising clients, hence this article. I was going to use Moran’s photograph to illustrate the article, but decided not to objectify her – her words speak for themselves. Please read the book.
To complete the argument, I am also pasting below the Israeli journalist Vered Lee’s article, calling to criminalise clients, not prostitutes.
The proposal by the Oireachtas (Irish houses of Parliament) to adopt the ‘Swedish model’ that seeks to abolish prostitution by criminalising the buyers rather than the sellers of sex, has incurred opposition by several Irish academics. In a recent Irish Times article Dr Eílis Ward of NUI Galway criticised the lack of evidence for this proposal, based on the ‘Turn off the Red Light’ campaign. Her liberal feminist argument that women should be free to be sex workers ignores the violence, coercion and abuse that dominate the sex trade, in Ireland and throughout the world. Prostitution, she argues, without a shred of evidence, cannot be abolished.
Unlike Ward, I did research the topic. In April 1981 Geraldine Niland and I published a two part series in the Irish Times on the lives of real prostitutes in Dublin. We spent several weeks ‘on the beat’ with the women, interviewing many prostitutes and male clients. The women insisted that without clients, prostitution would not exist. Clients came from all walks of life. From married men seeking casual sex on Percy Place on the way home from the pub, to priests whose dog collars on the back seat gave them away, and who the women described as ‘taking from the poor to give to the poor’. Many of the women were abused as children, most had a drug habit and all spoke of their wish to leave prostitution. For most the decision to enter ‘the life’ was a lack of real choice. Most of the women we interviewed would agree with how one of them described herself: ‘you’re dirt, and no good to anyone’. Continue reading “Legislate against prostitution”
In New Delhi the trial of five men accused of gang raping and murdering a 23 year old physiotherapy student on a private bus opened last week amidst protests and a fierce public debate over the failure of the Indian police to stem what has been described in the press as ‘rampant violence’ against women in India. The protests by angry, young anti-rape protesters met with water cannons, tear gas and long sticks used by the police to brutally disperse what the Indian finance minister called a ‘flash mob’ – a term used to describe internet age crowds which in this case were spontaneous and inspired by social media and a sense of common purpose.
According to the Financial Times, the protests were not simply against the brutal rape and the lack of safety for women in India’s capital. The rape, says New Delhi-based sociologist Dipankar Gupta, was just the tipping point, and the protests stemmed from a feeling ‘that this government doesn’t deliver on anything, including the safety of women.’