The sale of sex in Northern Ireland has increased since the law change making it illegal, new research shows.
The Nordic Model legislation was introduced by the Stormont Assembly in June 2015.
This model criminalises the purchase of sex, not the sale, and supporters argue it helps support women who have been coerced into prostitution or sold into trafficking.
In 2018, the Northern Ireland Department of Justice commissioned a report into the effectiveness of the new law.
The research undertaken from the School of Law at Queen’s University, Belfast, found that the instances of people buying sex had increased.
An analysis of 173,460 advertisements for commercial sexual services from one Adult Services Website (ASW) showed a 5% increase in advertising after the law came into force.
If the purpose of the law was to decrease demand, it has failedSex Workers Alliance Ireland
The research identified 4,717 sex workers who advertised their services on one ASW, 1,798 of these started selling sex after the law was implemented.
The average number of daily sex workers available in Northern Ireland is estimated at 308, with over 100 nationalities represented, and no reduction in the figure since 2014.
The legislation appears to have had no deterrent effect in purchasing commercial sexual services, and of the two cases that have been prosecuted in the Northern Irish courts, neither involved prostitution or human trafficking for sexual exploitation.
The report stated there was no evidence to suggest the Nordic Model had reduced sex trafficking in Northern Ireland.
The sale of sex was mostly concentrated in the large urban centres of Belfast and Londonderry, but all parts of Northern Ireland have some commercial sex activity, with the largest increase post-legislation seen in Co. Tyrone, which recorded a 134% increase, from 4,978 to 11,661 advertisements.
The on-street sector in Belfast and other large cities in Northern Ireland was now marginal, with only around five on-street sellers operating in the capital.
A majority of Northern Irish clients (75.9%) felt that purchasing sex was just as easy now as it was before the law came into force, and only 11.6% were likely to be put off purchasing sex because of the legislation.
Sex worker representative groups argue that the Nordic Model actually leads to an increase in violence against workers, which was demonstrated in the Republic of Ireland soon after the law changed, after a spate of attacks against workers in Dublin, and a rise in violent attacks overall.
The data indicated that since the legislation came into effect in Northern Ireland there had been a 677% increase in abusive phone calls to sex workers, while threatening behaviour had increased by 200%.
Kate McGrew, sex worker and spokeswoman for the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) said the research only highlighted an increase in the sale of sex and the health of sex workers put at risk.
“If the purpose of the law was to decrease demand, it has failed,” she said.
“If the purpose of the law was to help sex workers, it has failed.
“In the north, it led to massive increase in advertising, demand and an increase threatening behaviour in clients.
“In the south, it led to an increase of violent crime against sex workers by 92%.
“The law is a failure on the entire island of Ireland.
“This was predicted by sex workers, who were ignored during the process of introducing the laws.
“The law has increased our marginalisation and stigmatisation. We deserve better than this.”
Northern Ireland is the only jurisdiction where sex purchase legislation is in force to have data for commercial sex from before and after the legislation was implemented, meaning the current research can test whether the sex purchase legislation has lived up to objectives.