#NoClause6 | Sex workers protest in Northern Ireland
What is Clause 6?
Clause 6 is part of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill in Northern Ireland, proposed by Lord Morrow from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), currently the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly. With Clause 6, the DUP aims to “create a new offence of purchasing sexual services to reduce demand for trafficked individuals and combat exploitation” and proposes to amend the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 to criminalise any and all purchases of sexual services, regardless of consent between the individuals involved.
On Monday, October 20, 2014, sex workers and allies protested against Clause 6 at the Stormont Parliament Buildings in Belfast where parliamentarians debated over the more than 60 amendments before a vote on the Bill scheduled for the same night. +++ UPDATE: Clause 6 passed the Northern Ireland Assembly with 81 votes in favour, 10 votes against. +++
Against Clause 6
Research commissioned by the Department of Justice and carried out by researchers at Queen’s University found that 98% of sex workers who responded to the survey were against criminalising the purchase of sexual services.
“Sex workers worry that criminalisation of clients will lead to a potential decrease in security, worsen working conditions and increase risks of violence and other abuse. Some are also concerned about the loss of what they determine as decent clients and an increase in the number of violent clients. Another common concern is that criminalisation of clients will lead to the increased involvement of organised crime groups and ‘pimps’ in the sex industry.
For sex workers criminalisation of clients may mean that they would be less inclined to report crimes to the police out of fear of incriminating themselves or becoming involved in legal procedures.” (Source: Research into Prostitution in Northern Ireland, Report prepared by Queen’s University Belfast)
Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford commented:
“My view is that the research report raises clear questions as to whether the objective that Lord Morrow and I share – that is to reduce the incidence of trafficking – will indeed be furthered by Clause 6. I also believe it provides sufficient evidence for anyone who has any concerns about the welfare of individuals involved in prostitution to oppose Clause 6 on the grounds that we need more time to understand this, virtually hidden, element of our society and more time to make decisions on the right course for future law and policy.” (Source: Department of Justice)
Ford said the issue of trafficking people and human slavery should be separated from the issue of prostitution. “The research has established that the framework of prostitution in Northern Ireland is more complex and diverse than the picture generally painted. I have, however, seen no evidence to suggest that the change proposed by Lord Morrow would reduce the incidence of trafficking. Indeed the report contains evidence to suggest that criminalising the purchasing of sex, as a single clause in a bill, may create further risk and hardship for those individuals, particularly women involved in prostitution,” the justice minister said. (Source: The Guardian)
In a press release, sex workers’ rights activist Laura Lee stated:
“Will sex workers in NI have to wait decades for an apology just as the Magdalene women did ? Or will that apology for bad law making come after the first murder, or fourth serious assault perhaps ? It remains to be seen, but they cannot for a moment pretend they didn’t have the evidence available to do right by an already marginalised and stigmatised group. Sex workers will suffer, and it could have been prevented by the courageous actions of a few. Instead we have been let down by the cowardice of many.” (Source: Laura Lee)
+++ Update: Statement by sex workers in Northern Ireland on passing of Clause 6 +++
“We, as sex workers are devastated to hear about the news that the purchase of sex will be criminalised in Northern Ireland under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill. This new bill will only drive sex work further underground and make it more dangerous for the most marginalised sex workers.
The Northern Ireland Assembly are not listening to current sex workers who will be affected by this new legislation and the evidence released by the Department of Justice on Friday backs this up. 98% of sex workers surveyed are against this new law and 85% working in the industry said it would not reduce trafficking.
We ask the Northern Ireland Assembly to reconsider this law and look at the evidence. This law will not reduce trafficking and will make working conditions more unsafe.” (Source: Ugly Mugs Ireland)
Stormont Protest: Sex workers and allies protest against Clause 6
Photos: Sex workers and allies protest against Clause 6 of Lord Morrow’s ill-informed Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which criminalises the purchase of sexual services in Northern Ireland. © 2014 Matt Lemon Photography | Please read the copyright notice
(Includes appearances by “Andy”, an anonymous female sex worker; Dr Susann Huschke, lead author of the research report; and Justice Minister David Ford)