Prostitution 'not confined to city'
More than half of the police areas across Northern Ireland have reported cases of prostitution, new research has revealed.
The study proved the problem was not confined to the greater Belfast area and identified 17 victims of human trafficking forced into prostitution.
Justice Minister David Ford said more needed to be done to combat crime and protect vulnerable women from sexual exploitation.
His department carried out the research on levels of prostitution and human trafficking to inform the development of its new 'Strategy to Manage Women Offenders and Those Vulnerable to Offending Behaviour'.
The minister said: "As part of my agenda to reshape the justice system, I want to work in partnership with others to develop new thinking on how we can help bring people out of prostitution, support the victims of sexual exploitation and bring human traffickers to justice."
The key findings of the research were that 18 of the 29 police areas in Northern Ireland reported cases of prostitution over a six-month period, prostitution occurs across Northern Ireland and is not solely an issue for Belfast, and that police identified 25 potential victims of human trafficking in 2009/10 - with 17 who had been subject to sexual exploitation.
The paper identified factors that led to women becoming involved in prostitution and highlighted the growing problem of the trafficking of women who were sexually exploited by criminal gangs in the sex industry.
Mr Ford said: "This is a valuable piece of research which for the first time catalogues the extent of prostitution and human trafficking across Northern Ireland.
"It puts the scale of the challenge in context and while it is clear that the size of the problem in Northern Ireland is not as great as in other jurisdictions, this research allows us to look from an informed position at these issues.
"While there are a number of organisations, both statutory and voluntary, running a range of projects and initiatives that support women involved in prostitution, more must be done."