Archive | September, 2012

Amnesty highlight challenges with Lord Morrow’s prostitution bill

20 Sep

Amnesty International

Lord Morrow’s Private Members Bill: Amnesty welcomes anti-trafficking measures but warns against diversion of resources

Amnesty International has welcomed steps to tackle human trafficking in Lord Morrow’s draft Private Members Bill as providing a timely focus for the debate on how Northern Ireland can fulfil its international obligations on trafficking. However, the organisation warned that the Bill’s proposals on prostitution risked the potential diversion of resources away from tackling existing human trafficking offences. The Amnesty statement came as Lord Morrow prepared to present his Private Members Bill to the All Party Group on Human Trafficking at the Northern Ireland Assembly this afternoon (Tuesday 4pm).

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International Northern Ireland Campaigner, said:

“The Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive have important roles to play in making the region a hostile place for human traffickers and a place of safety and support for the victims of trafficking.

“We agree with the stated objective of Lord Morrow’s Private Members Bill which is to enable Northern Ireland to meets its international obligations to reduce demand, tackle trafficking, successfully prosecute cases and support victims.

“There are key elements of the Bill, especially around the provision of protection and services for the victims of trafficking, which we welcome.

“However, Amnesty International is concerned that making ”the paying for sexual services of a prostitute” a criminal offence could run counter to the purpose of tackling trafficking by confusing these related but separate issues and diverting criminal justice resources away from tackling trafficking. It is already an offence in Northern Ireland to pay for sexual services from someone who has been subjected to force,a position which we support.

Grainne Teggart added:

“The Trafficking Convention and the EU Trafficking Directive expressly provide measures to be taken for discouraging and reducing the demand for trafficking victims; the criminalisation of the users of prostitutes is not one of the measures they recommend. The proposed change to the law in Lord Morrow’s Bill thus creates an offence outside the trafficking legal framework. Legislators should focus on the provision of essential support services to the victims of trafficking and steps to ensure more successful prosecution of traffickers.Amnesty International welcomes this debate on how Northern Ireland can meet its international obligations to protect and uphold the human rights of victims of trafficking.”

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 – Women as powerful agents of change

18 Sep
British and Irish Governments must strengthen women’s role in peace process.
The Northern Ireland Executive was urged today to pressurise the British and Irish governments into implementing a UN Security Council Resolution which would give women here a more representative role in the peace process.
Feminist peace building group Hanna’s House met with MLAs today (18th September) in Belfast, ahead of a major All-Ireland Conference in Dublin in November, to discuss the need for both British and Irish governments to include Northern Ireland in their national action plans to implement UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
Shirley Graham, peace project co-ordinator of Hanna’s House, said the failure of the two governments to make provision for Northern Ireland in their action plans meant that women would continue to be under represented in politics, policing and the judiciary.
“The UNSCR calls for the increased participation of women in those institutions specifically established as result of conflict.  The exclusion of Northern Ireland from their Action Plans by both Governments means that women will continue to be under-represented in those institutions set up under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, particularly in leadership and decision-making roles in areas that can make a difference to communities still living with the aftermath of conflict.
“We organised this meeting today to help raise awareness of the importance of UNSCR 1325 and to invite representatives from the Northern Ireland Assembly to attend an All Ireland Conference on ‘Delivering Women Peace and Security’ at Croke Park Conference Centre on November 5. The conference will be the first time politicians from both sides of the border will have come together to discuss this issue with women from all across Ireland.
“We are also calling on the London and Dublin administrations to work together on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 by having sections on Northern Ireland in their national action plans that complement each other. We believe the Northern Ireland Executive could have a leading role in persuading them that this is the right approach to take.”
The Croke Park Conference, which will be opened by Irish President Michael D Higgins, will include a keynote address by Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics, giving an overview of UNSCR 1325 from a global perspective.
There will also be contributions from Professor Monica McWilliams on gender mainstreaming within the judiciary and from PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie on gender perspectives on policing and security.
Today’s meeting in Belfast followed a similar briefing in July when representatives from Hanna’s House met the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement to discuss the need for north south co-operation in implementing UNSCR 1325.
Hanna’s House believe that the institutions set up by the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement can be used to move forward the key actions demanded by the resolution.
 Dr Margaret Ward, Hanna’s House Chair  has stated that “the implementation of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement is ongoing and if UNSCR 1325 had existed at the time of its negotiation it would have provided a mechanism to ensure that women were adequately represented at the peace talks and in formal peace building institutions”.
Ms Graham added: “The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement created a framework in which the two governments could work with the new Northern Ireland Assembly to advance the peace process. This same framework can be used to bring about a new approach to Resolution 1325, to bring women to the heart of peace-building.
“It is important for women in Northern Ireland who have been impacted by violence to have real influence over institutions and services to create a safer and more equal society. This is not just about conflict resolution but also about prevention. We believe that women have a major role to play in ensuring we do not slide back into conflict.”
For more information about Hanna’s House visit  www.hannashouse.ie
Notes to Editors
UNCR 1325, which was signed on October 31 2000, is a landmark resolution that promotes women as powerful agents of change of conflict rather than as voiceless victims.
It recognises that women are important actors in peace building and conflict prevention and on governments to devise policy that provides women with adequate security and healthcare in the post conflict situation.
The UK National Action Plan on UNCR 1325 was published on November 25, 2010 and revised in February 2012. Despite intensive lobbying from GB and NI women’s group, the government does not address the conflict in their National Action Plan.
The Irish National Action Plan was officially launched by Mary Robinson in November 25 2011. November 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Hanna’s House has called on the Irish Government to ensure that UNSCR 1325 was an integral part of the work of its Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement as well as Ministerial Councils set up under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement: – the British-Irish Council, British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, North/South Council, North-South Inter-parliamentary Association and the North-South Parliamentary Forum to cooperate on issues related to women’s equality and human rights.