North votes to ban paying for sex

North votes to ban paying for sex

Paying for sex is to be banned in the North after Stormont Assembly members backed the move in a landmark late-night vote.

The proposal to outlaw purchasing sex is among a number of clauses contained in a Bill aimed at amending the North's laws on trafficking and prostitution.

Paid-for consensual sex is currently legal in the North, though activities such as kerb crawling, brothel keeping and pimping are against the law.

A ban will see the region implement a prohibition similar to the model operating in Sweden.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill was tabled before the Assembly by the DUP's Lord Morrow.

The fate of the Bill’s contentious clause six, proposing the ban on purchasing sex, was uncertain at the outset of the debate, with Sinn Féin’s decision to back the prohibition along with the DUP proving crucial.

The clause was passed during the Bill’s consideration stage by 81 votes to 10 shortly after 11.30pm.

Stormont’s Justice Minister David Ford, leader of the cross community Alliance Party, opposed the clause.

While the legislation still has to pass further Assembly stages, the significant majority support within the devolved administration means it is essentially now destined to become law.

Research published by Queen’s University in Belfast last week said about 17,500 men pay for sex in the North every year.

Sex workers opposing the clause and a trafficking victim in support of the ban were among those at Parliament Buildings in Belfast to watch the marathon debate.

Advocates of the ban insist it will reduce human trafficking in the region while critics claim it will merely drive the problem further underground.

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