Catholic, Protestant lawmakers unite to outlaw paying for sex in Northern Ireland, 1st in UK

Northern Ireland has become the first part of the United Kingdom to outlaw paying for sex, mirroring a move pioneered in Scandinavian countries.

The vast majority of politicians from the British Protestant and Irish Catholic sides of the Northern Ireland Assembly united Tuesday to support the Human Trafficking and Sexual Services Bill, which has been in the works since mid-2013.

The United Kingdom and most European Union countries have kept prostitution legal, while making most activities associated with the trade illegal, including brothels and public solicitation. Sweden, Norway, Iceland and now Northern Ireland have opted to make customers guilty of crimes, not the prostitutes. The Republic of Ireland is mulling a similar move.

Northern Ireland's new law makes payment for sex punishable by up to one year in prison.