Authorities in Northern Ireland have announced that proposed changes to the law on prostitution and human trafficking in the region will go out to public consultation later this month.
The BBC reports that the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which has been proposed by Lord Morrow of the Democratic Unionist Party, would make Northern Ireland the leading nation in the UK on human trafficking law.
The bill makes it an offence in Northern Ireland to pay for sexual services from a prostitute, allowing the authorities to target customers. At present UK law permits the buying and selling of sexual services, but outlaws associated activities such as kerb crawling, operating a brothel and pimping out another person for sex.
At present it is illegal in Northern Ireland to pay for sex from someone who has been forced into it.
The bill will also extend the definition of 'exploitation' to include forced begging, and will outline a compensation scheme for victims. Child victims are to be given a legal advocate to support them during their case, and special measures will be brought in to assist witnesses.
The bill also proposes better training for police and prosecutors.
The bill urges the Northern Ireland Department of Justice to produce an annual strategy document to raise awareness of the issues of trafficking and to outline how it is reducing it.
Speaking on the subject, Lord Morrow said that Northern Ireland can do better than it is at present:
"The majority of rescued victims of trafficking in Northern Ireland are those brought here for sexual exploitation and I believe that we can do better" he told the BBC.
"In Sweden there's a very clear message of zero tolerance for the purchase of sex that has had a clear impact on trafficking" he added.