Civil Liberties

Sex Worker Laura Lee to Launch Legal Challenge to Northern Ireland Prostitution Law

In Northern Ireland people can be convicted of paying for sex starting in June.


Laura Lee/Facebook

Escort and activist Laura Lee hopes to overturn Northern Ireland's new prostitution law by using E.U. human-rights rules and a crowdfunded legal challenge. Last fall Northern Ireland adopted what's known as the "Nordic Model" of prostitution criminalization, making it illegal to pay for sex but treating anyone who sells sex as a victim of human trafficking.

"The region is the only part of the UK where people can be convicted of paying for sex," reports The Guardian. Lee plans to launch her case in June, when Northern Ireland's new prostitution law takes effect. 

Lee, 37, said: "I am doing this because I believe that when two consenting adults have sex behind closed doors and if money changes hands then that is none of the state's business." 

The suit will rely on articles of the European convention on human rights. "There are several articles that we can look starting with article 8 that governs the right to privacy," Lee told the Guardian

"We will also focus on article 2 that concerns the right to life and we will argue that this law puts sex workers' safety by the fact the legislation will drive the trade further and further underground. And then article 3 is about protection from degrading treatment, which is very relevant because in Scotland police have been subjecting sex workers to terrible things such as strip searching on women working in Edinburgh saunas. Our legal team will also refer to the right to earn a living enshrined in the European social charter."

Though the legal particulars are obviously different, Lee's case echoes a suit brought earlier this month against California prostitution law. In the (also partially crowdfunded) challenge, a group of former sex workers and one would-be client claim that the law deprives individuals of the right to engage in private sexual activity, enter freely into contracts and association with others, and make a living at their chosen professon.