Sex-Work Law Review Shows Minimal Effect On Demand

The change to Northern Ireland's prostitution laws four years ago has had only a 'minimal effect' on demand, an academic report has found.

The Department of Justice published the independent three-year review into the offence of purchasing sexual services after the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act was introduced in 2015.

Carried out by Queen's University Belfast, the report examined the impact the legislation was having on demand, the safety and well-being of sex workers and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

While an increase in demand for sexual services was reported between June 2015 and December 2018, on-street prostitution declined in comparison to previous research.
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Police made 15 arrests and secured two convictions for purchasing sex, while 31 arrests and two convictions were made for human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The review highlighted a rise of 622 cases of online advertising, from 3,351 to 3,973.

On-street prostitution numbers fell from an estimated 20 active workers in Northern Ireland in 2014 to currently less than 10.

According to the research, it is impossible to say whether the change in legislation caused any increase in crime against sex workers, but a heightened fear of crime has contributed to a climate whereby they feel further marginalised and stigmatised.

The review concluded that the legislation has had minimal effect on the demand for sexual services; and due to the absence of any evidence that demand had decreased, it was unable to determine how the offence could have impacted on human trafficking.


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