Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Human trafficking clause that criminalises prostitution is no safeguard for sex workers

Clause 6 unhelpfully conflates prostitution and human trafficking
Clause 6 unhelpfully conflates prostitution and human trafficking

Human trafficking, in all its forms, represents a grave abuse of human rights. Whether carried out for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labour, or domestic servitude, it is a cruel and horrifying subversion of the basic human rights to which all people are entitled.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, as proposed by Lord Morrow, could, if passed into law, usefully place support for victims of human trafficking on a statutory basis and amalgamate some existing legislation into one single Act.

However, Amnesty International believes that Clause 6 of this Bill, which seeks to criminalise the purchase of sexual services, unhelpfully conflates two very complex social phenomena – prostitution and human trafficking – and could potentially prove counterproductive.

It is claimed that this clause will help protect sex workers, by shifting the criminal liability away from them as the seller of sexual services on to the purchaser.

In reality, though, it fails to do this and provides no exploration of, or guarantees against, the potential unintended consequences of such a move.

It is clear that many others, including the police, share our concerns on the risk of potential negative effects.

In effect, Clause 6 would introduce a hierarchy of criminal liability among those engaged in the selling of sexual services, many of whom may be vulnerable, with some remaining at risk of prosecution and others not.

In opposing Clause 6, Amnesty is urging the Northern Ireland Assembly to undertake deeper and wider reflection on this important human rights issue than is possible in considering a single clause in an anti-trafficking Bill.

We recommend that our political parties remove Clause 6 from the Bill and that planned research into sex work by the Department of Justice is used to inform future policy, which should establish the degree to which legislation – together with educational, social, cultural and other measures – could serve to reduce the demand that fuels trafficking, including for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

*Grainne Teggart is Northern Ireland campaigner at Amnesty International

 

Further reading:

Prostitute in formal complaint to Assembly over grilling by DUP man

Police U-turn on new vice Bill

Trafficked woman 'held as a slave in Belfast flat for five years by doctor' 

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk