On December 9, 2014, the Northern Ireland Assembly officially passed the groundbreaking Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill. The landmark legislation not only provides support services for victims of trafficking, but also aspires to curb sex trafficking by penalizing the purchase of sex and decriminalizing individuals who are prostituted. These legal provisions will serve to strengthen existing Northern Ireland legislation, which bans specific activities like kerb-crawling, brothel-keeping and pimping.
Although some of the provisions will enter into force as early as January 2015, the commencement of the law in its entirety, including the clause that criminalizes the purchase of sex, is intended on June 1, 2015.
We applaud the Northern Ireland Assembly, the first constituency in the United Kingdom to take such comprehensive measures to pass this bill, which mirrors the Nordic Model, a set of laws that recognizes prostitution as gender-based violence, discrimination, and impediments to equality. This victory is without doubt in large part due to the brave testimonies of survivors and the front-line organizations who serve victims of trafficking and exploitation in the sex trade.