PRESS RELEASE: Northern Ireland is failing to implement Clause 6 legislation

Northern Ireland is failing to properly implement its 2015 Clause 6 legislation, which made sex buying illegal, according to the campaign group Nordic Model Now!

Research, published Sept 2019, commissioned by the Northern Ireland Dept of Justice from Queen’s University Belfast, reports only 15 arrests which led to only 2 convictions under Article 64A in the 3 years since the legislation passed. In addition the research notes that whilst the Dept Of Health had published a strategy document on helping people out of prostitution, no specialist services have materialised.

Anna Fisher of Nordic Model Now! says:

“We are pressing for the Government of Northern Ireland to put in place the proper resources to implement this widely supported legislation to protect vulnerable groups and change the idea that male pleasure is so important, that people’s lives and well-being, overwhelmingly women’s, must be put in jeopardy so men can obtain sex for money and profit from this abuse.

A Nordic Model approach will not be successful without commitment at all levels to the prioritisation and funding of its enforcement; including in-depth training for the police, and support from leaders, the prosecution service and other officials and frontline workers.

The incredibly low prosecution figures indicate that there is still much resistance amongst the police to prosecute sex buyers and that the resourcing of police and public education programmes have been woefully inadequate for the successful implementation of this legislation.

There is little sign of the promised support for those wanting to exit prostitution and every indication that the growing poverty produced by National Government austerity programmes is trapping more people, and in particular more women and girls, into prostitution.”

The Clause 6 legislation criminalised the purchase of sex and stated that soliciting and loitering were no longer offences and that a programme of support would be offered to those who want to exit prostitution.  Whilst the then Justice Minister, David Ford and the police expressed opposition, the legislation received widespread support from women’s groups, the Catholic Church and the general public and passed into law with an 81:10 majority.

Nordic Model Now! is extremely critical of the commissioning, methodology and conclusions of the Queen’s University Belfast research and believes the Northern Ireland Dept of Justice has commissioned the research with the intention of undermining the 2015 Act, for the following reasons:

  1. Professor Graham Ellison, the lead Professor on the research programme has strong views on this approach and submitted arguments against the introduction of Clause 6 before the legislation was passed.
  2. The report attempts to blame the legislation itself for the rise in prostitution but offers no real evidence to support this.
  3. The research offers no detailed review of measures put in place to implement Clause 6.
  4. The research failed to consider the impact of socio-economic factors such as the National Govt’s austerity programme, particularly on women, which is likely to have contributed to a rise in prostitution – as reported by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty.
  5.  The researchers relied in large part on advice, assistance and data from organisations who are not only ideologically opposed to the legislation but also have commercial vested interests in promoting its failure.
  6. Whilst the report acknowledges the vulnerability of women engaged in prostitution it makes disingenuous recommendations, which continue to place the burden of responsibility on those vulnerable to assault for avoiding it. It also promotes the well understood fallacy that women ‘choose’ to be ‘sex workers’ rather than acknowledging that the vast majority of women and girls entry into prostitution is associated with sexual abuse histories, coercion by men, class and poverty.
  7. There is only a superficial examination into paramilitary involvement in sex trafficking with statements included in the research unquestioned, from those who have every reason to hide the true scale of trafficking.

Nordic Model Now! has produced a detailed report critiquing the research.

Notes to Editors

For further information contact:

Nordic Model Legislation

The approach to prostitution policy that was introduced in NI in 2015 (generally known as the Nordic Model) is based on the understanding that prostitution is a violation of the dignity of the person and therefore of their human rights; that prostitution is both a consequence of the enduring inequality between the sexes and a cause of that inequality; and that men’s demand for prostitution drives the billion-dollar international profits behind the trafficking of women and girls worldwide for the exploitation of their prostitution. This understanding is recognised in international human rights treaties, including CEDAW and the Palermo Protocol – both of which the UK has ratified, making their terms legally binding.

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