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British Government proposes to de-criminalize brothels in Northern Ireland

Lifesite, Niagara Falls, USA:
BELFAST, 18 October, 2006– British lawmakers are claiming that changes to the sex offences law proposed for Northern Ireland, will “strengthen” existing laws and provide “protection to young and vulnerable adults.” However, opponents of human trafficking and the ‘sex trade’ warn the government proposals will decriminalize brothels and further the exploitation of women, especially immigrants, in prostitution. More

Criminal Justice Minister David Hanson claims that the proposal, for which the consultation period ended on Friday October 13th, will not impose “sweeping changes” to existing statutes.

Hanson said in a media release that the paper “does not refer to 'mini brothels' but asks whether we should follow proposals in England and Wales to allow 2 or 3 women to work together from one address in the interest of their safety.”

MP’s and activists working against the ‘sex trade’ are crying foul and point to the negative experience of other countries with legalized prostitution such as Germany.

Esmond Birnie, the Member for South Belfast, said the Minister, in denying that “mini-brothels” would be legalized, is “engaging in semantic gymnastics.”

“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is a duck. This sounds like “mini brothels” to me!” Birnie said.

Birnie warns that the experience of countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, who have attempted to “liberalise the vice trade” shows that far from increasing “safety” for women, measures like the one the British government is proposing lead directly to an entrenched “sex industry” with all its consequent social evils including increases in organised crime, drugs, abuse of children, and human trafficking.

David Hanson took aim at “some who are deliberately attempting to misrepresent these proposals and have made a number of sweeping and false allegations.”

Birnie said, however, that the proposals could not be mistaken for anything other than the legalization of prostitution.

In January this year, the British government issued a similar proposal to redefine brothels in England and Wales to allow three women to “work” in one house selling sex, using the justification that women engaging in prostitution are safer in houses than on the street.

The government said that current law, which says more than one woman selling sex in a residence constitutes a brothel “runs counter to advice that women should not work alone in the interest of safety.”