Belfast Telegraph

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

By Adrian Rutherford

A trafficked Asian woman was kept locked up as a slave for up to five years in a Belfast flat, a Stormont committee has been told.

The woman, originally from India, was held captive by a consultant paediatrician after being brought illegally to Northern Ireland.

She was not allowed out of the flat and spent her time cleaning and looking after five children – without any pay.

The horrific story emerged during a meeting of the Assembly's justice committee yesterday.

The committee was hearing evidence on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill.

The Private Member's Bill, brought by DUP MLA Lord Morrow, aims to make it illegal to pay for sex in Northern Ireland while boosting support for victims of human trafficking.

Pamela Dooley from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions told the committee how she received a phone call from two members who were comforting the woman.

The woman explained that she had been brought to Northern Ireland illegally. She had lost track of time but believed she had been there for between three and five years.

She had not been allowed out of the flat and was not given any wages.

Ms Dooley told the committee: "She was locked into the place."

She added: "It wasn't about sex, it wasn't about prostitution, it was about using another woman as a slave. That is what I call trafficking."

It is not clear if the alleged captor was ever quizzed by police.

Asked if any charges were brought in the case, Ms Dooley replied: "He took himself off across the water very quickly."

The meeting also heard from Rachel Moran, a former prostitute who works with the Space International charity, which highlights the harm caused by prostitution.

Ms Moran told the committee how she was lured into the Republic's sex trade in her mid-teens, spending seven years as a prostitute.

Rejecting suggestions that some women enter prostitution through choice, Ms Moran said that in seven years in the sex industry she never met a woman who told her she was happy.

The law currently allows consenting adults to buy or sell sexual services in Northern Ireland, but many associated activities like organising prostitution, kerb crawling or soliciting in a public place are illegal.

Lord Morrow's Bill aims to combat human trafficking by outlawing the purchase – but not the sale – of sex.

BACKGROUND

Lord Morrow's proposed legislation, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, contains 19 clauses updating Northern Ireland's laws on prostitution and trafficking. The law could set a minimum two-year prison sentence for trafficking or slavery offences. It is based on a 15-year-old Swedish law which criminalises anyone who pays for sex.

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