As the human trafficking problem in Northern Ireland increases, Democratic Unionist Lord Morrow has introduced a bill to make paying for sex illegal, closing a loophole that makes trafficking difficult to prosecute, the Press Association reported Tuesday.
Pimping and brothels are illegal in the United Kingdom, but voluntarily providing sex in exchange for money is allowed by law.
“Now it is very difficult to differentiate between a person who is coerced and a person who is a willing participant,” Morrow said, “so therefore what we are saying is if a person purchases sex then they are the offender.”
Morrow called the human trafficking trade in Northern Ireland “escalating,” according to the Press Association, saying that police rescued 27 victims of trafficking in 2011 compared to 11 between 2008 and 2009.
The success of the Private Member’s Bill, which is currently up for public consultation, is by no means certain, as neither is bipartisan support for the measure, according to the Press Association.
Advocates for a similar measure in the Republic of Ireland said that barring the exchange of money for sex over the entire island would be more effective than allowing different standards to persist on either side of the border.
“Criminals and in particular those behind the sex trade ignore borders and do not see them as obstacles,” Denise Charlton, head of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, told the Press Association. The Council’s Turn Off the Red Light Campaign advocates to make paying for sex illegal in the Republic of Ireland.