The Northern Ireland Assembly has voted by 81 to 10 in favour of making it a crime to pay for sex.
MLAs spent several hours on Monday debating the measures, which formed part of a private member’s bill on human trafficking and exploitation.
Clause six of the bill makes it illegal for someone to obtain sexual services in exchange for payment.
Northern Ireland is the first part of the UK to vote in favour of the measure.
There is still some way to go before the bill becomes law, but the prospect of a ban on paying for sex in Northern Ireland has taken a significant step forward.
Research published last week suggested that about 17,500 men pay for sex each year in Northern Ireland.
The study by Queen’s University, Belfast, was commissioned by the Department of Justice in response to Lord Morrow’s proposed bill.
Meanwhile, another poll has indicated that almost 80% of people in Northern Ireland support the criminalisation of paying for sex.
The Ipsos Mori survey found support for the Human Trafficking Bill was strongest among people aged between 16 to 34.