Following the 22 September 2016 meeting of the Justice Committee (Minutes here) we wrote to the Committee:
Email: [email protected]
27 September 2016
Dear Ms Darrah,
I note that the Sex Worker Liaison Group (SWLG) was discussed with the Department of Justice (DOJNI) at the Justice Committee meeting on 22 September 2016. I feel that the DOJNI explained well the purpose of the SWLG. However, as member of the SWLG and one who was specifically mentioned at the meeting, I would like to confirm to the Justice Committee my strong commitment to working constructively with DOJNI and PSNI regards trafficking.
The organisation I represent, UglyMugs.ie, has a large membership in Northern Ireland of persons in the sex industry. I believe engagement with persons in the sex industry is vital to anti trafficking efforts. Sex workers are exceptionally well placed to identify exploitation and trafficking relating to the sex industry and very much want to work against such abuses. I think the work that has been done to date by the SWLG in terms of raising awareness of trafficking with sex workers and encouraging reporting of concerns to the PSNI has been very positive and useful and I look forward to continuing this important work. Regards my raising the arrest of sex workers at a SWLG meeting, I think that we are far less likely to identify victims of trafficking in an environment where sex workers (and potentially victims of trafficking) are being arrested and thus it was appropriate for me to raise this matter at a SWLG meeting. If desired at any stage I would be very happy to discuss the work of the SWLG further with the Justice Committee.
I would also like to point out that the statistic cited by Mr Paul Frew, that only 1-2% of women in prostitution are there by choice, is not I believe, as he maintained, a DOJNI statistic. I believe this was a statistic given in a presentation at a DOJNI conference in 2011 by Gill Heap from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Women’s Team and relating to a group of women attending the Anawim project in Birmingham. I would think a better source of data to look to, regards estimating what percentage of persons in the sex industry in Northern Ireland are there through trafficking or coercion, would be the DOJNI Research into Prostitution in Northern Ireland published in 2014 and available online at: https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/doj/prostitution-report-nov-update.pdf In regard to third party involvement, this research found that 15% of the people who took part in the online sex worker survey and 7 of the 19 people interviewed were currently or had previously worked with or for a third party.