BY KERRY CAMPION
NUS-USI Women’s Officer, Aisling Gallagher has expressed opposition to Lord Morrow’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, and called for MLAs to take heed of the growing criticisms of the Bill as it enters the committee stage.
The bill is aimed at curbing the practice of human trafficking, which is considered a modern form of slavery, and updating Northern Ireland’s legislation on the matter.
Aisling Gallagher, Women’s Officer of NUS-USI student movement, said: “Lord Morrow’s Bill has tried to bring the issue of sex work into dealing with human trafficking. This could send out a very dangerous message to women sex workers in Northern Ireland.”
The Bill has attracted similar reservations from Justice Minister David Ford, who expressed concern over clause 6 of the bill which seeks to criminalise paying for sex.
Mr Ford said: “The evidence is not clear in my mind at this stage” and called for further evidence to be produced.
Ch Supt Marshall, who leads the PSNI’s response to human trafficking, also criticised the bill in the News Letter.
Ch Supt Marshall said in the News Letter: “There needs to be a wider social debate and understanding about what prostitution actually is in Northern Ireland before we consider what the right policy might be”
Ms Gallagher has warned against the possible implications of the bill and accused Lord Morrow of pursuing an ideological agenda.
Ms Gallagher said: “This clause could drive sex work further underground, and could endanger the safety of women working, in addition to potentially making it more difficult to leave the industry if they choose to.
“This Bill appears to be part of a wider ideological agenda on behalf of Lord Morrow and the DUP. Human trafficking should be addressed in a way that tackles the issue itself, instead of any such bill being diverted towards other matters.”
Diane Dodds, DUP MEP, has defended the bill in the Belfast Telegraph and stated that the contentious clause 6 would help deter potential traffickers from Northern Ireland.
Diane Dodds said in the Belfast Telegraph: “The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill would mean that Northern Ireland would have the most robust legislation of anywhere in the UK.
“[The bill] also attempts to make Northern Ireland unattractive for would be traffickers, by making paying for sex illegal.” The bill’s committee stage is due to conclude on 12th November 2013.