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But the shadowy world of sex-for-sale has never been bigger or more lucrative for the gangs who run massive criminal empires using women trafficked into Ireland from abroad, according to the group Ruhama, which supports women working in prostitution.
Internet and mobile phone technology has pushed the sex industry behind closed doors leaving a small number of women, mostly drug addicted, working the streets. Ruhama, the group which works with women involved in the sex industry, has noted the subtle change in which sex trade is conducted in Ireland because of new technology.
In many ways prostitution has become so well hidden that women are becoming more, not less, vulnerable. Ruhama is among the groups objecting to the granting of a drinks licence for the lap dancing club planned by London-based club king Peter Stringfellow. An application for a drinks licence for the club at Parnell Square was adjourned last week after residents groups and Ruhama voiced objections. Gerardine Rowley of Ruhama told the Sunday Independent that the so-called "high class" nature of the Stringfellow operation was irrelevant.
She said that women who find themselves getting involved in the lap dancing business often do not realise how short the journey is from there into prostitution. She said that Ruhama has found numerous women who find themselves in the sex industry as dancers suddenly find that the contract changes and women find themselves trapped because they are in debt.
While she was making no such allegations against Peter Stringfellow's clubs, she said that Ruhama believed that all lap dancing clubs are, in essence, exploitative. They can be groomed in subtle ways so they come to accept that offering sexual services is OK," she told the Sunday Independent. Ms Rowley said that one feature of the lap dancing scene in Ireland is the cut-throat competition for money especially among foreign girls working in the industry who are in debt.