‘Others must follow NI lead on sex laws’

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The Irish government has followed the example of its Northern Ireland counterparts in passing a bill to make it illegal for people to pay for sex.

When it came into force in 2015, the Northern Ireland Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act made the Province the first part of the UK to vote in favour of the measure.

It came about after Lord Morrow’s Bill was voted for by a majority of 81 to 10 at Stormont.

The Dail has now followed suit, voting in favour of a Sexual Offences Bill criminalising purchase of sex by 94 votes to six.

Both bills put the onus on to the buyer of sex, with the law acting as a deterrent.

Greater criminal penalties for the buyer have been proven to decrease demand, say Christian Action Research & Education (CARE), who worked closely with Lord Morrow on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015.

They say the law will have a crucial impact in the fight against modern-day slavery.

“Human trafficking is a market that works on supply and demand, therefore reducing the demand for paid sex is a key part of reducing trafficking,” said CARE’s Northern Ireland policy officer, Mark Baillie.

He added: “This law is ground-breaking and together with Northern Ireland’s human trafficking legalisation, which criminalises sexual purchases, it makes the whole of Ireland a hostile place for traffickers.

“In passing this bill by a huge majority, the Republic of Ireland has clearly confirmed that Northern Ireland’s decision to criminalise the purchase of sex was the right move.

“This law addresses the inequality, harm and exploitation that is at the heart of prostitution, and holds those who drive it – the buyers – responsible for their actions.

“With legislation in place both sides of the border in Ireland, there will be nowhere for perpetrators to hide from this law.”

CARE has urged other governments to follow NI and the Republic of Ireland’s example and make it illegal to pay for sexual services.