Northern Ireland: Assembly Approves Strong Anti-Trafficking Measures
Monday, October 27, 2014 11:10 AM

The Northern Ireland Assembly has adopted comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation that will criminalize payment for sexual services and enhance protections for victims of human trafficking. The Assembly’s action was informed by a recent report from Queen’s University in Belfast that indicated at least 17,500 men in the Northern Ireland pay for sex each year. A primary sponsor of the bill stated during the Assembly debate that, "demand for paid sex the single biggest driver for trafficking to Northern Ireland [and] I believe we must do something to address this demand if we are to see an end to human trafficking.”

Supporters of the bill say it will improve the “criminal justice response” to trafficking crimes and create a “solid” system of support for trafficking victims with a particular emphasis on trafficked children. The final bill prohibits human trafficking, slavery, forced labor and servitude and establishes the new offense of forced marriage. It includes a minimum two-year prison sentence for convicted traffickers.

Northern Ireland is the first region in the United Kingdom to adopt the Nordic approach to prostitution and sex trafficking, one that has been recommended by the European Parliament of the European Union and the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly. The Nordic model has also been implemented in Sweden, Iceland and Norway and recognizes the fundamental links between prostitution, violence against women and sexual exploitation of trafficked women and girls. The new Northern Irish legislation is expected to become law later this year after passing additional procedural hurdles.

Compiled from: Gordon, Gareth, Trafficking Bill: MLAs vote to make paying for sex a crime, BBC News (October 21, 2014); Gleich, Louise, Northern Ireland set to have most comprehensive Human Trafficking legislation in the UK, CARE in Northern Ireland News (October 21, 2014); Northern Ireland ban on paying for sex is approved by Stormont assembly, The Guardian (October 20, 2014);  Research suggests 17,500 men pay for sex in NI each year, BBC News (October 17, 2014).