Belfast Telegraph

Human Trafficking Bill is a victory for women

By Annie Campbell

Northern Ireland is poised to take a radical step towards tackling human trafficking and prostitution.

Lord Morrow's Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill will criminalise those who buy sexual services, making Northern Ireland the latest country to adopt the Nordic model, which targets those men who 'buy' sexual services and supports those trapped in prostitution to exit it.

Fionola Meredith (DebateNI, October 3) claims the most important matter in this debate is the rights of some women who might "choose" to be prostitutes.

She accuses Women's Aid of "getting into bed" with the DUP on the issue. She attempts to undermine Women's Aid's stridently non-party political ethos and belittles the lived experience of every woman who has been sexually exploited.

Fionola Meredith might want to reflect on the overwhelming evidence that links child sexual exploitation and childhood domestic violence with women trapped in prostitution.

Women's Aid has supported women affected by domestic and sexual violence for 40 years. We speak on behalf of women who cannot do so themselves.

Women's Aid has listened to the voices of women in prostitution: trafficked women recounting tales of slavery and degradation; women forced to choose between selling their body, or not feeding their children, women horrifically sexually abused by their partners.

When EU anti-trafficking co-ordinator Myria Vassiliadou visited Northern Ireland her message was clear: "Follow the money" and tackle demand.

Clause 6 of Lord Morrow's Bill will do just that – tackling demand for sexual services and targeting the multi-million pound sex industry. Women's Aid is glad to support it.

Women's Aid has proud feminist roots – we regard the selling of women's bodies an abuse of women's human rights. All of the major international and local women's organisations support this view.

We are confident the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland will welcome the passage of this Bill.

  • Annie Campbell is director of the Women' s Aid Federation NI

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