Words: Dray Morgan
Last week, The Taoiseach replied to questions about rental tenants being exploited sexually by landlords by saying that he didn’t think updating legislation would change anything.
Leo Varadkar has addressed the government’s most recent efforts to examine the law and combat the scourge of sex for rent dynamics in Ireland.
Following a recent investigation by RTÉ, which found multiple instances of Irish landlords willing to exchange accommodation for sexual favours, pressure has been put on the Taoiseach and the rest of the Dáil to put an end to these practices.
The investigative feature saw property postings from landlords reading, “services are sexual, house keeping in maybe two hours per week” and upon further messaging, “Do u have high sex drive? Or will it be a chore.”
Another landlord replied when asked for clarification on his listing, “Sex. **** sex. That’s it. No, nothing further than that.”
Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin has proposed legislation that would make it illegal for any advertisement or allusion to exchanging sex for rent with the possibility of imprisonment for seven years. It is not currently explicitly illegal to trade sex in lieu of rent, with the bill proposed by the opposition party, hoping to change that. The initial proposal was introduced to the Dáil in March of last year but no further action has been taken.
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach said he would rather “actually see prosecutions” instead of focusing on legislation. This contradicts his Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, who proclaimed there was a striking “gap” in Irish law. However, the Taoiseach did say he was open to the restructuring of legislation to hone in on targeting sex for rent.
With a record 12,000 people in emergency accommodation, the housing crisis in Ireland has never been worse. The looming fear of homelessness means tenants are more vulnerable than ever.
Dr. Clíona Saidléar, executive director of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, told RTÉ Investigates: “What you have right now is something of a perfect storm in terms of the vulnerability that has opened up around housing and around finding somewhere to rent and accommodation.”
With pressure from opposing and aligning politicians, the consensus seems that a change to legislation is necessary and must be completed quickly in order to protect vulnerable tenants.
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