Research into Prostitution in Northern Ireland

Susann Huschke, Peter Shirlow, Dirk Schubotz, Eilís Ward, Ursula Probst and Caoimhe Ní Dhónaill, “Research into Prostitution in Northern Ireland: Commissioned from Queen’s University Belfast by the Department of Justice” (October 2014).

No abstract available. Opening text:

“At present in Northern Ireland practices related to prostitution, such as soliciting or loitering for purposes of prostitution, organising or advertising prostitution and brothel keeping (defined as more than one person selling sexual services in a given location) constitute criminal offences under the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008. This cultural and legal context has produced particularly hidden forms of prostitution with the internet becoming a major platform for advertising sexual services and setting up meetings in hotels or apartments. Despite the legal context and alternative discourses concerning prostitution in Northern Ireland there has been a paucity of research on social issues that relate to prostitution, such as migration, trafficking and the nature of prostitution.

Limited research evidence is available with regard to the size and composition of the sex worker population in Northern Ireland. It can be deduced from the few available government and NGO publications that sex workers operating in Northern Ireland include locals and people from other parts of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, as well as sex workers from Europe and from across the world, e.g. Nigeria, Colombia and Brazil. Northern Ireland, and particularly its largest city Belfast seems to be a destination for mobile sex worker. Although some sex workers may sell sex only in one place, most appear to be mobile, moving between different cities across Ireland and the UK, as well as across the continent (e.g. Spain, Italy, Germany). This generally mirrors the practice of sex workers across Europe.

While these reports and studies provide some insight into the lives of sex workers and their clients, the evidence is patchy, largely unsystematic and not as extensive as the evidence available in other parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. So far, reliable academic studies based on interview or survey data from those who sell and buy sexual services in Northern Ireland have generally been unavailable. However, the issue of prostitution has received considerable interest in Northern Ireland over the last year, due mainly to the proposal within Lord Morrow’s Private Member’s Bill (Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill) to criminalise paying for sexual services. This study commissioned by the Department of Justice aims to fill some of the existing research gaps by conducting a mixed methods study of prostitution in Northern Ireland.”

Full text available here.


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