Simon Boazman asks what impact a ban on buying sex has had on prostitution and human trafficking in Sweden, and if a similar proposal would work in Northern Ireland.
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This programme contains some scenes Demand for sexual services means
that human traffickers the Northern Ireland as a lucrative market.
These are very dangerous individuals who see these people as
a business commodity. They are shattering the lives of dozens of
vulnerable women here. They do not care! It is just about meat, flesh,
that is all. But tonight on Spotlight, we examine a
controversial new bill that has been proposed to tackle the growing
problem. I believe that traffic in this modern-day slavery. It would,
for the first time in the UK, making it illegal for a man to buy
sex in any circumstances. I work all week, 40 hours. I pay my taxes,
Police! Earlier this year, the PSNI raided suspected brothels right
across Northern Ireland. Police! Stand still! What we discovered is
that prostitution is occurring in every county in Northern Ireland.
We arrested a number of people involved in brothel keeping, and we
recovered a number of people that I would consider to be victims of
Estimates from the PSNI indicate that prostitution in Northern
Ireland generates �25 million every year, making it one of the largest
But it is one that very few of us ever get to say. You may think just
because you do not see sex workers in your town or city, they are not
there, but there are various websites offering services of women
right across Northern Ireland. So just how easy is it to book one? Of
the dozens of women advertised, I spoke to 10, seemingly from various
nationalities, all in Belfast, and all available to meet for sex.
I just want to know if you are free for a date tonight. How much is it
for an hour? 160. Is that everything? OK, so what shall I do?
How does it work? You come to me. I I called earlier, I am near Belfast
Telegraph now. OK, my darling. was as straightforward as that.
OK, well, I came to where she wanted to meet, she gave me some
further directions to where she is now, but obviously that is as far
From making the court is standing outside the apartment took no more
than 20 minutes. It shows just how quick, simple and easy it is to buy
sexier. -- sex here. So profitable is the industry in Northern Ireland
that it attracts prostitutes from all over Europe. Tonight we speak
to people with very different experiences of the trade. Laura is
an independent escort who knows there is big money to be made here.
I can only speak from my own experience, and my experience is
very positive in the sex industry. It is a buoyant market and there is
That demand is coming from men like Darren. Over the last three years,
he has been a regular visitor to prostitutes in County Antrim.
work all week, 40 hours. I pay my taxes, I have some money, I treat
myself from time to time. Is that how you see it, as a treat that you
have learned? Not that I earned, but it is nice. The estimates he
has spent over �2,500 on prostitutes. He believes it was
money well spent. What is it now that makes you go
back again and again? For the bars -- bars, it is a privilege to get
to know girls of that high standard, you do not see them type of girls
in town much. You'd have to spend �500 wining and dining them. It
bypasses that. Because there are so many men like Darren here who are
prepared to pay for sex, the PSNI say that Northern Ireland is now a
draw for Human Traffic is eager to exploit that buoyant market. --
human traffickers. They have seen there is a demand from the men for
sex, and they will supply that demand to their market place. That,
to me, it is not a very nice thing to say about our society in
Northern Ireland, that there is that supply and demand. I would
estimate on any one day that there are probably about 170 people
working or advertised as escorts in Northern Ireland, probably
somewhere between 50 and 60 of those individuals may display the
indicators of being victims of trafficking. In the last three
years, there have been over 40 victims of sexual trafficking
recovered in Northern Ireland. They are often extremely traumatised by
the experiences, and this means that we very rarely get to hear
their stories. But tonight we here exclusively from the only victim of
sexual trafficking in Northern Ireland to speak publicly. Sarah
had moved to the UK, had a job, friends and family. Her hopes and
dreams were in front of her. Then one day she was simply taken.
just disappear, in one moment, and you find yourself in an airport
with people you do not even know and taken, just taken in a car and
goodbye for ever. You must have Sarah believes that all prostitutes
are effectively victims of rape and feels that the real story must be
told. Do you think people in Northern
Ireland understand what is really going on? I don't think so. It is
very important for people to know what is really happening appear.
Probably there are over... I couldn't say a perfect number, but
over 500 rapes a day in Belfast. you think that any of the men who
came to see you knew that you were traffic? Yes. They knew everything.
They knew. They were speaking with them, they knew. Did they care?
Who cares? I was beaten because of them. I am sorry to tell it like
that, but they knew, they don't care. It is just about meat, flesh,
that's all. Sarah's experience is not unique. The PSNI fear that the
real level of human trafficking in Northern Ireland could be double
the official figures. In an attempt to address this horrific crime, the
UK per year and MLA Maurice Morrow has proposed a ground-breaking but
controversial new Bill. It is setting out to basically do three
things or try to achieve three things. First, more support for
victims. Make more robust provision for the conviction of traffickers.
And reduce demand for trafficking. And it is his plan through what is
called Clause IV to reduce the demand for sex that makes the bill
so unique. Almost all of the laws that currently deal with
prostitution in the UK, like keeping a brothel or solicitation,
targets the seller or the prostitute and not the buyer.
Although already illegal to pay for sex with a forced prostitute, the
reality is that this law has proved very difficult to enforce, and as
yet there has never been a conviction for that crime in
Northern Ireland. This Bill is designed to make things much
simpler, because of the very first time it makes buying consensual sex
also a crime. There is a demand there, so we must tackle the demand,
and that is what Clause IV will do. At the moment, there are some
people who, perversely, salve their conscience by saying, what I am
doing here, and not breaking any law, and I believe that if this was
legislation tomorrow, that would right away take out those who have
a regard for the law. I believe it is needed, and I believe it is the
real way of tackling human trafficking. If the bill goes
through, it would make men like If Lord Morrow was sitting here now,
saying that he wants to make you a criminal, what would you say to
him? Good luck. I have done absolutely nothing wrong, and I
will continue to do so, no matter what. Would this not stop you?
Absolutely not, no. Sex worker Laura also believes the bill is
misguided and will not help those who are victims of trafficking.
do away with demand, to do away with trafficking, it is erroneous,
completely wrong. You simply cannot do away with demand. It might
deplete on a very small level, but in actual fact what will happen is
that you will push the women who do so badly need our help further away
from those people who can help them. You are targeting the wrong group
of people. You are targeting the people who are paying for and then
joined consensual sex, when really what we need to do his target the
traffickers. But for Maurice Morrow, proved his law would work exists a
short plane ride away. -- proof. Stockholm.
In a place where this law has been More than 10 years ago, Sweden
became the first country to make the purchasing of sex and illegal
act. Ever since then, it has been held up around the world to tackle
the horrors of human trafficking -- an illegal act. The impact of the
sex purchase law on trafficking was only realised later. It is a great
benchmark to see if this bill in Northern Ireland would work. Helped
by a local journalist and interpreter, we hit the streets to
try to talk to prostitutes to hear how they think this law has worked.
We spoke to a woman in her 30s. She would not do an on-camera interview
but did share her views. The traffic in has gone down. Some
years ago, the girls could make heaps of money. But people are more
cautious now. Demand has dropped but she still believes there are
trafficked prostitutes and people from all walks of life still going
to the industry. The maybe you are a single parent, a student, need
some extra money. Then it is your own choice to come here. Then you
go home and lead an ordinary life. We asked her if this was what she
wanted to do. Want is perhaps too strong a word. That is what you
have chosen to do. No one has forced me to come here. A do you
think prostitution will always be in Stockholm? Yes, I think so.
it ever go away? I do not think so. I have seen numerous prostitutes
here. I have seen them doing business. I have seen users looking
for them. I spoke to a prostitute who said that although the demand
has dropped if men want sex they will find it. With demand for sex
reduced but evidently still there, how do the police feel the law is
working? Detective Inspector is from the Stockholm police
prostitution unit. You still have some street prostitution? It has
drastically decreased after the law. Before the law, we could have about
up to 18 women on an ordinary night -- up to 80. If we go out later
tonight, you would find about 10, 15. More at weekends. He offered to
show me where the street prostitutes take their clients. It
is not the most likely place I thought we would end up. The reason
why we are here is that this church and graveyard is very close to one
of our streets with prostitution. What they do is take their clients
from the street and go here because this place is dark and shabbily.
They will actually have sex against a tombstoning -- a tombstone or up
against the church wall. The street prostitutes, most of them do not
have places to have sex. When you deal with people who will go to
those extremes, to have sex in a graveyard with a prostitute, is a
fine going to be a deterrent? first-time offender, I would say
that a find is probably a deterrent. He evidence of sex was everywhere.
Used condoms lying all around the church. It makes me think that if
you keep coming back and arresting people here, the deterrent is not
working because they are still doing it. You have to think of if
we were not having this law, what with the situation be like? De you
think it would be worse? Probably 10 times worse. 20. 100 times worse.
But there are critics here who feel the reduction in its street
prostitution owes more to the internet moving the industry
indoors than to the introduction of the law. I went to make a writer on
the sex industry -- I went to meet. Hello. Come in. Thank you very much.
What is it about this nor that does not work? I would turn the question
around and ask, what is working? -- what is it about this law. It is
claimed that prostitution is lessened but there is no evidence.
It is claimed that trafficking is less but there is no evidence.
There is no evidence it has deterred men from buying sex. We
can go on with a list but there is no proof. Before the law was put in
place, I went with some other people -- by voiced concerns with
some other people. The live for sex workers marginalised, their lives
would be worse. We warned it would be harder to choose what client you
would go with. It would be harder to negotiate safer sex practices.
We warned that the stigma against sex workers would be raised. Most
This one went saw the effects of the law first time when she was a
prostitute. Now I campaigner, she believes laws like this are not
needed. I believe that the law should protect you and me as well.
You can point your finger at any problem we have in the sex industry
and there will be a law for that already. We have laws against
sexual exploitation, slavery, a child labour, forced labour,
kidnapping, rape. All of the laws are there. It would be more
effective to use them. But Sweden's leading expert on human trafficking
is convinced the law has led to a 75% reduction in that street
prostitution. But has it had an impact on traffickers? We can hear
it telephone conversations that traffickers speak about Sweden as a
bad market. They are afraid of getting caught. She also believes
the law has changed the attitudes of the Swedish people. It has a an
important impact because legislation communicate its values
in society first. The decision... Most people want to stand on the
right side of legislation. It works on most people but it does not work
100%. We do not have any legislation that works 100%.
have heard arguments but these two subjects prostitution and
trafficking should not always been mixed, but they are somehow
separate things. They are linked. If there were no prostitutes and
demand for social services, there would be no trafficking. -- demand
for sexual services. The debate in Sweden is still raging as to the
real impact this law has had on demand for sexual services. It is
an argument that is being echoed back in Northern Ireland. Sex for
sale is never going to go away no matter whether we criminalise the
client, the sex worker, the advertiser, it is not going to go
away. That is not a reason not to try and address demand for some.
I would love there to be no murders, no robberies. The real world tells
me those things are going to happen. But I am not going to sit back and
say, because those things happen, there is nothing we could or should
be doing. I am going to try and be the voice of those who have no
voice on this issue. I will be speaking out for them. Those who
have experienced the pain back the industry can inflict believe that
doing nothing is not an option. This trafficking victim endured
many months of being moved around locations right across Northern
Ireland. She still struggles to overcome the effect of daily abuse.
Is there such a thing as a typical day? The number of men, the Times,
how would it work? It is at any away in the night because they do
not care. You are forced. It means anybody can come there. It means 15
minutes on the clock. It means you cannot stay... Basically, how many
people? Between five and 15. Probably more. It depends how you
can resist. A day? Yes. That is how it is done. Every day? Yes Foster
you cannot walk. - macro yes. You cannot walk. Had I do you survive
that? I wished sometimes to be dead. Not to be there. How often way you
beaten? Every day. Every day. -- how often were you beaten? For what
reason? No reason. Just if I was looking out of the window or
probably if I was missing my family or something. They would just be to
you for that? One? Because they want to make you we care so that he
fell and they create their addiction in you. You do not have
food, sleep, freedom. You cannot even watch the window. They saw I
was fighting so after a while they plan to kill me. But they did not,
they could not, because people were paying money for me. Did you
believe they were going to kill you? Yes, are believed it. The PSNI
say these fears are well-founded. These are very dangerous
individuals. They are serious and organised criminals who exhort and
use control on the people that they are moving. They see them as
commodities. The people will be moved in to read be used and abused.
People that you could be living with in your own street or in a
family who are involved in the purchasing of sex. If you could say
anything to the guys who come to see you, what would you say?
take a second view on what they are doing. If I could scream in this
room 10,000 times, do you think somebody would hear me? What is the
level of the screen, the sound of it? That is how much they hurt.
They were just watching me and saying, you are such a beautiful
girl, now get naked. There are impassioned arguments for and
against this law. It seems that often the more you have seen all
felt the paint the industry can inflict, the more likely you are to
believe or hope that the proposed legislation would work and reduce
the demand for paid sex -- the more you have felt or seemed the pain
the industry can inflict. Drug addiction took this mother from a
happy normal life to selling sex on the streets of Dublin. Now drug-
free, but she fears she will never be the same again. Sometimes I am
scared I will be forever seen as damaged and there has now made
myself untouchable -- and I have now made myself untouchable for the
rest of my life. There are things that have happened I will never
make sense of. A it is clear that the demand is fuelling trafficking
needs. Prostitution and trafficking are intrinsically linked. You have
more because of the other. Talking about human trafficking and not
talking about prostitution is like talking about the slave trade and
forgetting to mention the plantation, the sex industry is a
vile, sit, twisted world and must be brought in its knees. The only
way it can is to cut off what makes it exists and that is the demand
for. Men who think they have a right to buy a that human beings.
This man says he would never buy sex from an unwilling or trafficked
sex worker and does not see anything wrong in what he is doing.
I think it is entirely different what we are doing to what they are
doing. That is important that we should... I see fully independent
escorts. There are criminal gangs who are human trafficking and that
is different. How we do know? just know. Their personalities. If
they are happy are not. Is there a danger that there is a wilful sort
of ignorance in men who biceps? I do not think so. -- in men who
buy sex. I know if they are independent and happy. But this
woman says there is no such thing as a happy prostitute and all
romanticised notions of the sex industry are flawed. I know women
on the streets that fantasise about it, they believe their favourite
customer will rescue them and save them. But they do not want to. And
when we die, they come back the next week. We do die. We die lonely
of massive overdoses, poll from the canals stone-cold. Imagine the last
thing you do when you're alive is give a bludgeon to a 60 year-old?
Women say it provides support and accommodation for victims of
trafficking and sexual abuse. They have heard stories like this many
times before and back the proposed legislation. I have no
understanding of why people would not support this bill. I think
morally and as a society, why would we not pass this bill? Why would we
not say sexual violence against women is wrong? I have not heard a
good argument to change my mind. Many legal experts and law-
enforcement bodies remain unconvinced that the Bill would
work. This criminologist from Queen's University... The bill
conflates two fairly distinct activities. One trafficking and the
other prostitution. Some trafficking may involve an element
of prostitution but there are lots of trafficking activities that do
not necessarily involved prostitution. Prostitution because
it is a varied practice can exist in the absence of trafficking. What
the Bill is effectively saying is that everyone involved in sex work
and prostitution are traffic. There is no evidence that is in fact the
case. And the Justice Minister is on record as having concerns that
making the purchase of consensual sex a crime risks driving
prostitution underground and make it honourable people at greater
risk of harm while the PSNI fear the Bill would divert vital police
resources away from recovering trafficking victims. My opinion is
it may hamper the recovery of human trafficking victims and change the
focus from recovery of them on to purely prostitution. Human
trafficking is not... We showed what we had discovered in Sweden
but he remained convinced the law would pass. Here's a message.
can decide that we can play around the edges of this problem or we can
take a more positive and robust approach and say that we should
tackle this issue. We should not allow a situation to continue to
deteriorate whereby you then have this issue of human trafficking
escalating year on year. But while lawmakers, legislators and those
who work both willingly and unwillingly in the sex industry
continued to disagree, one thing will remain certain. Every day and
every night in Northern Ireland, the demand for paid sex remains.
That means for some so will the pain. These are men far our