The House has passed a law criminalizing customers who pay for sex with trafficked women, while it rejected an amendment that would provide a legal recourse for defendants who use a plea of ignorance as their defence.
Members of Parliament on Friday passed a bill, sponsored by Diko MP Christiana Erotokritou, criminalizing the behaviour of clients who pay for sex in cases where sex workers are victims of trafficking.
The bill, which was voted unanimously, elevates the behaviour of customers to an illegal act if they seek, use, or benefit from sex services offered by individuals who fall under the definition and protection of trafficking victims.
The law criminalizes the solicitation of sexual services, where a man buying sex from a woman cannot plead ignorance if she has been trafficked or is under the control of a pimp
An amendment proposed by Edek MP Costis Efstathiou, which aimed at providing legal recourse to defendants the chance to prove they had no knowledge that a person was a victim of sex trafficking, was defeated by 46 against and one in favour.
Efstathiou’s bill would have provided for defendants accused of having sex with trafficking victims a chance to prove in a court of law that they had no knowledge that a person was a victim.
His proposal drew criticism on the basis that it was against efforts to combat sex trafficking and abuse of minors, a problem that has been troubling authorities for decades.
The new law essentially criminalizes the solicitation of sexual services, where customers buying sex cannot plead ignorance in cases where the sex worker has been trafficked or is under the control of a pimp.
Trafficking is the recruiting, transporting, harboring, or receiving of a person through force in order to exploit him or her for prostitution, forced labor, or slavery.
The sex industry in the Republic of Cyprus is unregulated. While prostitution is not illegal, running a brothel is an offence punishable by law along with trafficking and pimping activities.