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Challenge to ban on paying for sex in Northern Ireland

by Hannah Tooley

New legislation coming in on June 1st 2015 will make it the only part of the UK where people can be convicted of paying for sex.

In England, Wales and Scotland the exchange of sexual services for money is legal, but related activities like kerb crawling or managing a brothel are criminal offences.

Law graduate Laura Lee from Dublin has been challenging this new legislation. She said she is worried that it will drive the trade underground and make it more dangerous for workers. She added, two consenting adults exchanging money for sex is none of the state's business.

Her legal team are referencing articles from the European Convention on Human Rights law to fight the ban.

Beyond The Streets is Christian charity that helps sex workers. It released a statement after the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade released their 'Shifting the Burden Report'. Beyond the Streets said: "Whilst we recognise that this report will not be welcome by all and there is an increased polarisation in desired approaches, we welcome the clear message that the law is not currently working within the UK.

"The recognition that the current law fails to protect those at risk of exploitation and fails to prosecute perpetrators of abuse should be taken seriously and steps should be made by government to prioritise a review and action.
"Another clear theme from the APPG report is the level of violence and vulnerability that is associated with prostitution within the UK. Whilst there will be many different arguments as to why this is the case, the very fact that this violence and harm is so widespread would indicate that selling sex is not similar to other 'services' which are sold."

Beyond the Streets emphasised that it is important not to forget that prostitution is not always a choice and there needs to be routes out of the industry. It said: "The treatment of these women is often united by stories of violence, rape and harm no matter how or why someone started prostitution. In recognising this violence and proposing a review of the legislation there is an important step away from 'prostitutes' being seen as a nuisance and a 'public decency' issue."

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