SDLP Councillor Carmel O’Boyle presented a motion to Down District Council this evening ( Monday 10 September ) in order to give every political party in Down District the opportunity of supporting The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill that has been proposed by Lord Morrow in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
She said: “This will give us the opportunity to applaud the inclusion in his bill of the long overdue proposal that would make it an offence to pay for sexual services from a prostitute.
“All other parts of the bill are similar to what is proposed in the UK, and public consultation in the Republic of Ireland on child prostitution and sex trafficking was to be presented to an Oireachatas Committee at the end of August.
“If passed into legislation, Lord Morrow’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill would make Northern Ireland the lead jurisdiction in the British Isles on human trafficking law. Making it an offence to pay for sex goes to the very heart of the scourge of human trafficking, and is what makes Lord Morrow’s bill so important.
Lord Morrow, a Fermanagh and South Tyrone DUP MLA, is driving the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill in Stormont. His party colleague Strangford MLA Jonathan Bell supported his initiative on August 21 at the consultation launch, and said: “It is to our shame that we have more slavery today than at the time of Wilberforce and something must be done about it.”
Jonathan Bell, who worked with victims of sexual crime for 21 years prior to going into politics full time added: “Great Christian men like William Wilberforce blazed a trail for the dignity and worth of every human being when he led the fight against slavery. Today our society has gone into reverse and expert analysis is showing world-wide there are more slaves now than ever.
Mr Bell said: “In Northern Ireland we have witnessed some 27 victims recently being recovered by the excellent work of our Police with some 75 being rescued over the past three years.”
In the Scottish Assembly, a motion (on 29 February acknowledged the work being done by agencies and statutory authories in addressing hunan trafficking, and called for the government to host a summit to shape thinking and policy in this area. However, in an effort to force a bill through the Scottish Parliament in June, MSP Rhonda Grant did not receive the full support she sought.
O’Boyle Delivers Strong Appeal for Support for the Human Trafficking Bill at Stormont
Councillor O’Boyle painted the grizzly picture to the Down District Councillors as to the extent of the human trafficking trade in Northern Ireland. She said there are known to be at least 88 brothels in Northern Ireland with a minimum of two prostitutes in each. These are found in cities and towns across the Province.
The prostitutes are local and foreign, with some from China, Sub-Saharan Africa, West Africa and Eastern Europe. Many are victims of sex trafficking by crime gangs from the UK and other countries. Each of these 176 girls has sex with up to 5 men per day at a cost of £80 per half hour. The pimps pocket returns of £70,400 per day/ £492,000 per week.
“The annual turnover of prostitution in Northern Ireland is some £35 million per year, of which £30 million is clear profit added Councillor O’Boyle.
“Prostitution is Northern Ireland’s most successful business, with Moy Park coming second with a turnover of £27 million and Almac making a mere £18.6 million by comparison.
“The European average age for a child becoming a prostitute is 14 years with many as young as 10-13 years. Some are sold on the streets of London for £16,000 and conscripted by gangs into a life of slavery and prostitution.
“75% of all prostitutes start work at the age of 18. Many have been groomed and most come from homes in which they were abused and vulnerable children.
“Since 2005 the numbers of men using prostitutes has doubled. Those agencies at the forefront of the war against human trafficking are quite clear about the reasons why this unspeakable practice is flourishing in NI. They say quite simply that demand is driving supply. However, while kerb-crawling, running a brothel and pimping are the only activities that at present are outlawed, the men-the customers – who create the demand are untouchable. Lord Morrow’s bill would finally tackle this anomaly in the law, and make these men culpable as well.
“Men know full well that to some extent there is coercion and abuse in prostitution. They know that many of the women they use have been lured, tricked or trafficked. This new law will make many think twice before offering to pay a woman to have sex with him. If being caught and charged means that he has a criminal record, then he is unlikely to want his family or employer to find out. Public exposure in the local press, or being issued with an ASBO may be just the deterrent that is needed to put a stop to his demand.”
Councillor O’Boyle cited Psychologist Melissa Farley who said: ‘ Prostitution harms both women and men. Men who view women as objects may have difficulty in sustaining interest in normal relationships. This is not healthy sexuality for men either, and damages them too.’
“It is the unsavoury fact that some men are prepared to pay for the services of a prostitute that is the very nub of the problem of human trafficking. It is this demand that drives supply and ruthless gangs are there to provide vulnerable women and children for them,” added Councillor O’Boyle.
“Right in our midst we have vulnerable people who are exploited by parasites who feed off their misery for monetary gain, and by their customers, for sexual gratification.
“Our aim should be to make Northern Ireland a dangerous place for human traffickers and their customers. We need to make NI a safe place for the vulnerable people they exploit.
“We need to educate our young men and young women about the horrors of human exploitation through prostitution, and to ensure they all know that it is not acceptable to subject another human being to such degradation.
“I therefore call on this Council to write to the Assembly’s Human Trafficking Group which comprises members of all political parties, asking them to support, as Down District Council does, all aspects of Lord Morrow’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, before the consultation period ends on 18 October.
“In addition to this, I call on this Council to write to the Department of Justice, asking them to produce an annual strategy on raising awareness of, and reducing human trafficking.”
In making her presentation, Councillor O’Boyle insisted on the vote in the Council Chamber being recorded.