The sex trade in Northern Ireland: the creation of a moral panic?

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Commercial sex – “prostitution”, or in the United Nations’ preferred terminology “sex work” – has once again been thrust into the spotlight in Northern Ireland in the aftermath of Lord Morrow’s Human Trafficking Bill, which has attracted intense publicity, including a recent BBC documentary. Now in its second reading in the NI Assembly, the Bill includes a raft of provisions to support victims of human trafficking. The main focus of attention is Clause 6, which, for the first time in the jurisdiction, would make it a criminal offence to pay for sex. Drawing on the claimed “successes” of the so-called Swedish or Nordic model, the rationale is that this will reduce “demand” and that trafficking into the commercial sex industry will be seriously impaired. However, Northern Ireland already has fairly robust penalties in place to deal with sex trafficking. Since 2009 it has been an offence (punishable by a long jail term) to knowingly procure sexual services from a trafficked victim, while existing law rightfully prohibits any sexual activity with someone who is underage or otherwise vulnerable (as defined in the legislation).
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationThe Trafficking Research Project
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sep 2013


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