The bill needs to gain cross-party support in Stormont for it to become law. Sexual activities such as brothel-keeping, kerb-crawling or pimping are illegal in the UK, but selling and paying for sex has been permitted up until now. Paying for sex with a victim of human trafficking is illegal, but difficult to prove.
According to the Guardian
, the person responsible for the newly proposed law change is Democratic Unionist Lord Morrow, hoping that his private member's bill will prevent human traffickers from entering Northern Ireland, or think twice about it.
"I am trying to make it an offence to purchase sex because many of those who have been trafficked and sent to Northern Ireland are pushed into the sex trade," he said.
"Now it is very difficult to differentiate between a person who is coerced and a person who is a willing participant, so therefore what we are saying is if a person purchases sex then they are the offender."
Lord Morrow's Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill will make Northern Ireland the leading country in UK's human trafficking law. Refworld
put out a 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report based on research from Sweden, which had previously banned human trafficking and exploitation.
"Swedish police have estimated that 400 to 600 persons are subjected to human trafficking, primarily in sex trafficking, in Sweden annually. Foreign victims of sex trafficking originate from Romania, Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Albania, Estonia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Thailand, China, Uzbekistan, and Mongolia; in 2010, one third of identified victims were children.'
"Among Swedish nationals, some mentally or physically handicapped individuals reportedly were exploited in sexual servitude. According to a government report, 12 percent of Swedish girls and four percent of Swedish boys placed in state-run youth care homes sold sex for drugs or money. Although sex trafficking has been the dominant type of human trafficking in Sweden, forced labor and forced criminal behavior also increased this year."
The Stockholm County Administration only addressed sex trafficking, not labor trafficking, into its activities, although the coordinator chose to incorporate labor trafficking independently. Northern Ireland, hoping to reduce sexual trafficking
in the province as Sweden did, may need to follow the same recommendations:
* Vigorously prosecute, convict, and punish labor and sex trafficking offenders.
* Ensure that trafficking offenders receive sentences commensurate with the gravity of this serious crime.
* Continue training judges, particularly appellate judges, on the application of the anti-trafficking law.
* Continue efforts to identify and provide trafficking-specific assistance to child trafficking victims.
* Implement measures to improve protections for children in state-run youth homes who are vulnerable to trafficking in persons.
* Consider proactive measures to prevent unaccompanied foreign minors from being subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.
* Formalize victim identification mechanisms.
* Ensure that labor trafficking is explicitly included in the mandate of the National Coordinator and any national action plan.
* Ensure that victims of labor trafficking are provided with full information about their rights and that they are empowered to testify against their exploiters.
* Provide longer term residency options for victims who may face retribution or hardship in their country of origin.
* Consider a national anti-trafficking awareness campaign to address forced labor in addition to forced prostitution.
* Continue to provide human trafficking awareness training to all peacekeepers.
* Continue regular, self-critical assessments of anti-trafficking efforts.
In Belfast Telegraph
, Detective Chief Superintendent Roy McComb, head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) organised crime branch, said: "This is modern-day slavery where human beings are treated like commodities by sophisticated organised crime gangs who are making substantial criminal profits from the sex trade.
"These gangs have no thought for the health and well-being of their victims. They see them simply as instruments to help them generate cash."