Northern Ireland’s ban on the purchase of sex has had “minimal to no effect” on levels of human trafficking, the demand for paid sex, or the number of sex workers according to research just released by the Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice commissioned Queen’s University Belfast to conduct a three-year review of the law since it came into effect in 2015. It was then that Northern Ireland made buying sex a criminal offense under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act 2015.
The move was largely inspired by Sweden, or the “Nordic model,” which criminalised the purchase of sex in 1999 but did not criminalize sex workers.
Yet the review by Queens University Belfast is now calling into question the efficacy of this approach to stopping human trafficking.
Irish Legal News reports:
QUB researchers said in their report on the law that there was little evidence of any change in the market for sex between 2014, the year before the law was implemented, and the three following years.
The report’s conclusion states: “It may be disappointing for proponents of this legislation that the research did not uncover more evidence of a reduction in prostitution in Northern Ireland, particularly since this was hailed as such a success in Sweden, and one of the main reasons why the Nordic model (so termed) has been exported internationally.
“However, we would respond by suggesting that the evidence base from Sweden and the Nordic countries generally is simply not strong enough to support the proposition that sex purchase legislation has led to the massive decreases in prostitution and human trafficking that are alleged to have occurred in those jurisdictions.”
Most sex workers in Northern Ireland who were interviewed by researchers also reported that sex work “has become more dangerous” since the 2015 ban took effect. Researchers also found that while on-street prostitution declined, the number of sex workers advertising online increased.
Kate McGrew, spokeswoman for the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI), told ITV news that sex workers were ignored in the process of introducing the 2015 ban.
“If the purpose of the law was to decrease demand, it has failed,” she said.
“If the purpose of the law was to help sex workers, it has failed.”
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