From today, paying for sex becomes illegal in Northern Ireland,following the examples of Norway and Sweden in criminalising the clients of sex workers.
Many believe the move will prompt similar laws in the rest of the UK, despite strong opposition from those who argue that legalisation would be the best protection for those involved.
The new measures make Northern Ireland the only part of the country where someone can be convicted of paying for sex, although soliciting sex in a public place, running a collective or brothel, and pimping all remain illegal across the UK.
Under the new law, section 15 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act, it will be illegal to obtain, for payment, sexual services from anyone – whether or not there is “exploitation”. Anyone convicted under the new legislation can be sentenced to a maximum of one year’s imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
But this so-called “Swedish model” is still quite rare. Use our interactive map to compare laws across the world.