Tuesday, 21 January 2014

When 'Justice' is anything but.


On Thursday 9th January, I was invited to give evidence to the Justice Committee in Stormont, Belfast. Having never done so before and as the newly appointed spokesperson for Scotland and Ireland for the IUSW, I was understandably nervous. I wasn't aware that a presentation of sorts was required until I got there, I had assumed it would be more of a questions and answers session based on the written evidence I had already submitted.

Before my evidence was heard, Ruhama and Turn off the Red Light gave theirs and the Committee welcomed them with open arms. They asked them to clarify a few points and that was the extent of their interaction, they were treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Then came my turn. I spoke slowly and clearly although I was immediately put off by the fact that one MLA had walked out as soon as I started to speak and several others has switched off completely and were on their laptops, ignoring what I was saying in favour of more pressing matters. I decided that of foremost importance was to keep my cool, because I truly believe that if you go into any debate and start shouting, you've lost.

After I'd finished, what followed was the single most horrid attack I have ever had from anti's, at least face to face. The chairman of the committee Paul Givan, began by undermining my credibility as a representative, saying that because I am from the IUSW I am effectively the face of pimps. Very calmly I explained that the person they were repeatedly referring to may have had links with an escort agency but that I was there in my personal capacity as an Irish sex worker with twenty years experience. That was completely ignored and Jim Wells MLA went on to allege that I receive funding from pimps and that's why I speak out.

Let's clear this up for once and all, shall we ? I am not a pimp, I have never been a pimp and am an independent escort. I have never received funding from a pimp of any description. I have however, set up a Gofundme page for donations from fellow sex workers and allies and I have done that for a very good reason. In 2008 I was sacked by a major UK bank because I was working part time as an escort, the ins and the outs of that I will go into at a later date but for now, what you need to know is that I fought them through the courts for four years and in the end I lost on a technicality, leaving me liable for costs for the other side and over 30,000 in debt. It broke my heart, but the whole dark period is what gave me the anger and strength I have today as an activist for sex workers' rights. When the time is right, I will expose exactly what went on behind closed doors, the cover ups and the lies. In the meantime, I find myself spending hour after hour working for the safety and legal protection of sex workers and since the IUSW doesn't have any money, (relying solely on donations) then I am alone in financing travel, childcare and hours of sex work lost to campaigning. So, there's my 'funding' in black and white. There is none, bar what I make myself and what is donated.

Moving on, Jim Wells asked if Laura Lee is my real name. Of course it's not, it's a working name I employ, mainly to protect my family. I couldn't be taken seriously he said, unless the Committee were made aware of who I really am. So I was compelled to give my real name to what was fast becoming the Spanish inquisition. Here I must take some blame, it was open to me to offer to pass my driving licence over to a member of the committee who could have noted my name, rather than place it in the hands of the abolitionists, who were furiously scribbling notes behind me. Hindsight is a great thing, and when you're under pressure it just doesn't occur to you to take an alternative route other than the quick. I have no doubt that the abolitionists present will now use that information against me, it just remains to be seen how low they will go.

Jim Wells went on to make a further claim - that whilst it's admirable that I abhor what happened to Petite Jasmine in Sweden, I am choosing to ignore the deaths of 127 sex workers in The Netherlands. What Mr. Wells possibly forgot to mention, is that all of those deaths happened BEFORE legislation, and that since legislation, the sex workers work with the police rather than against them, reporting all that they find untoward and being able to rely on real support. He escalated his questioning from there to - 'Would you suggest that a son or daughter should become involved in that career ?' Now, let's bear in mind that that is a Justice Committee, who's sole purpose is to collate evidence, is that really an appropriate question ?

It got worse. From there, the chairman Paul Givan began to ask personal questions as to the relationship I have with my father and my sex life. I'd like you to take a step back for a moment and imagine if they had asked those questions of Ruhama, there would be national outcry. I was a sex worker, a woman, alone, and they thought they could bully me.

For me, the crux of the problem with the entire exchange came with this statement from the head of the Justice Committee, Paul Givan - 'Yes, but some of us do not need any research or any evidence.' For someone purporting to be collating evidence for the Minister for Justice, that is truly frightening. I'd also like to ask the Committee, exactly what they have done about the very real problem of teenagers being sent into the care system in NI (B & B's)and subsequently disappearing, to the hands of abusers. Taken from a 2009 study done by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, p.47 -

Those presenting themselves as minors to the immigration authorities at the airport cannot be placed in police custody because of their age, neither can they be placed in immigration removal centres/immigration detention until they have been properly interviewed by the UKBA. The information gathered through interviews indicates that 16 cases of people claiming to be 17 years of age have been referred to Social Services by UKBA since April 2008. Fifteen of them disappeared from accommodation provided on an emergency basis by Social Services teams in Belfast within hours of their arrival. Another child went missing after a few days. As one representative of a support and advice organisation stated:
"They are not minded while they are there. There is a loophole in the system which is used for this, the traffickers must know that the kids are going to be placed in a B&B from which they will be easily picked up."


Bearing in mind that the above study was done in 2009, I shudder to think what the current figure is with regard to missing children. It seems to me, that while these arguments rage on about prostitution which largely involves consenting adults having sex, real victims are suffering, and I don't see an outcry or Committee hearing to address that.

It's funny, I knew in going in to address a committee which is largely DUP that they would hate me. They would hate my background, but more, they would hate the minority group I speak for. I know that they think themselves morally superior to the rest of us because they worship The Bible as they see it. But I see it the way it was intended -

'You will be judged with the judgement you make of others' - Matthew 7:2

LL xx




24 comments:

  1. I could rant for hours about these ignorant numpties...on the day I assure you I did, time for a "Best of" compilation I think?

    "Incidentally, even in a class of total numpties Paul Givan is a truly outstanding example of the species. I cannot tell you how relieved I am that he was not actually voted in (the very idea is scary)..."

    "what is keeping Jim Fell from letting me know his arrangements for me to make a formal complaint to the PSNI about the elements of Rachel Moran's fraud that I am eyewitness to (him being so determined that people should report any crime they witness and all he must be FRANTIC to sort this out for me)? "

    "the FACTS simply support empowering sex work independent of the needs and ambitions of morally bankrupt NGOs, Crime (organised or otherwise), unscrupulous Commerce and Politicians (whether or not they would usually be considered compliant with M'Naughton)..."

    "Who do I need to press rape charges against in NI for sanctioning below subsistence austerity and forcing women to sell sex?"

    "...and don't think I am showing special favour to Jim Fell...it just isn't legally reasonable to hold the certifiably insane accountable for their actions "

    "Watching Fell and Givan perform the phrase "accepting Jesus as their personal total abnegation of responsibility" came into my mind, clearly and forcefully"

    Researching these geniuses afterwards was almost more horrifying than their performance, they both come up like something out of the character list of "Witchfinder General" I had NO IDEA such ignorant and primitive ideology still existed outside REALLY WEIRD cults, that stockpile weapons in deserts.

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    1. Ironic, isn't it, that some members of the DUP have super injunctions in place to stop the press from disclosing their own behaviour. The hypocrisy is simply staggering.

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    2. It hilarious to me that I cannot get Jim Wells name right to save life...something to do with "I do not like thee Dr Fell" keep popping into mind.

      I chat to friend in Antrim ALL TIME and these guys NEED super injunctions in place just to stop their own people rising up and burning them out of it.

      Apparently the REASON nobody is rushing to apologise is that they woke up next day in far deeper water themselves than anything they tried to drop you in for other reasons.

      Seriously...there guys are not fit to plead...let 'em get a super injunction against me saying THAT!

      (PS DO they actually smell like stale Brylcreem close up, cos they look as though they do?)

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  2. Good grief! 'Yes, but some of us do not need any research or any evidence.' aka "I've made my mind up; so don't confuse me with facts."

    This would be laughable if it wasn't so serious.

    But well done to you for appearing in front of them and trying to get a sensible pov across.

    Good luck, God bless and keep your chin up!

    PS Great letter of support from Brooke Maganti.

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    1. Thanks Jeff ! I could have been a lot more argumentative with them but you know, in the end, they got enough rope to hang themselves in spectacular fashion. Imagine saying 'we do not need research or evidence', it's just mind boggling.

      I'm just glad they've been exposed for what they are, narrow minded bigots filled with hatred.

      I'm always grateful for support from Brooke, she's a gem.

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  3. Their treatment of you was horrific and you were extremely dignified in response.

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    1. Thank you :-) I'm done with being nice though and am gearing up for the next round of debates.

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  4. Thank you for showing us strength and grace under fire from bullies. Many of their questions were purely spiteful and personal and in no way could help frame a fair debate. I was appalled at how they treated you but, you are inspirational. Thank you.

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  5. Glad to see the "happy hooker" myth that you are so keen to push forward for your own financial gain be questioned. Judging from your above comments it looks like when pressed you have absolutely no defense for your position.

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    1. I have never pushed forward a "happy hooker" myth, I speak from my own experience and that has been very positive. For my own financial gain ? Um no, as I said above, there is no funding, I pay for my activism myself. As for my defence of my own position, I have the truth and real life experience on my side. The only people who displayed an indefensible position were the DUP, through their deplorable behaviour.

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    2. People do not realise...if you ever pushed a "happy hooker" myth you would get it from *ME* before they even noticed.

      Happy v Unhappy is irrelevant...all that matters is that a free adult has decided sex work is her best available option.

      (I hope I do not recognise "anonymous" because if I do my personal opinion just crashed through the floor of the undercellar.)

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  6. Did you really think that they wouldn't want your real name? Sounds like you had given this mo thought at all. Also sounds like you were completely unprepared?Seen too many clients to prepare properly maybe?

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    1. "The wicked envy and hate; it is their way of admiring." Victor Hugo.

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  7. I think, in an environment where nothing Rachel Moran or Justine Reilly says has ever been subject to the most cursory of checks (which they would fail) it was reasonable to assume nobody would ask for verification of anything.

    Can't help wondering if they would ask for Moran's real name (read her book CAREFULLY she states "Rachel Moran" is not real name either).

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    1. I see SPACE are due to give evidence on the 30th Sept, I wonder if they'll compel Moran to reveal her real name then ?

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  8. You're not to blame at all for how you handled giving your real name; you were put on the spot, and they had no consideration for, or indeed interest in, your safety. I'm still appalled at how they treated you; I guess I didn't exactly expect greatness, but there are certain standards of decency anyone should be able to count on. On top of everything else, I found much of their attitudes and questions to be juvenile and unprofessional. Solidarity x

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    1. I was expecting common decency too, more fool me. Thanks for your kind comments and solidarity right back at you xx

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  9. Hi dear.,
    I have seen your blog just today itself., Planned to spend for 5 minutes but your writings make me to read few articles.., You are a good writer more than a prostitute, Your emotions are more precious than money. But Money gives all the pleasure except sex, so money is important. I am also in dual mind and i am from india..
    Wish you best of luck for future

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  10. Hi, Laura

    I just wanted to say well done. That was a horrible experience.

    But that's what you get when you come up against bigots. Looking on the bright side, we are all a bit wiser because of it.

    You can assume that I give quite a lot of thought to issues surrounding prostitution and what vexes me is this. The anti-prostitution lobby is well organised. There is both breadth and depth in their representation.. And they have a very powerful ally in the form of the press (which has a vested interest in demonising both prostitutes and clients). By comparison, people with a positive point of view (and who often have the capacity for incisive intellectual argument) are not connected in any meaningful way, certainly not in a way which makes them a force to be reckoned with. They are simply there to be picked off one at a time.

    A few days ago I came across something which has the capacity to challenge that position. It is a petition calling on Amnesty International to take on the issue of The Human Rights of sex workers (where it is governments which undermine those Human Rights). The petition was launched in response to a leaked position paper drafted by Amnesty. One can assume that The Swedish Model would be a prime target. Anyway, you might want to encourage your readers to sign the petition. You and I are lone voices - Amnesty International has a presence, a legitimacy and a track record. I think it's worth a shot.

    The link is about 3 million characters so I can't drop it here but I think that a search for: We demand a human rights based approach to sex work and call for the decriminalization of all consensual adult sex work

    will probably turn it up in a Google search.

    Petition by
    Sonja Dolinsek
    Berlin, Germany

    If that doesn't get it and you are still interested let me know in a reply and I'll see if I can figure out how to get it to you. Obviously, it makes sense to disseminate the link to as many contacts as possible.

    The petition page also has a link to the leaked document.

    Regards

    Marcus Segretto

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    1. Hey Marcus,
      Thank you so much for your comment and the info too. I am aware of the Amnesty petition and will be working on that over the next couple of days. Your second comment, which I've not published as requested makes for interesting reading too, so thanks for that.

      Please feel free to email me directly, I'm always happy to hear from friends and allies.

      All the best, LL.

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  11. Support from a praticing muslim..

    I dont believe this the way anybody of faith should behave.
    They are a bunch of hypocrats who fake their faith.

    Faith in god should make us humble us and not pass judgement on others.

    You are fighting for people without voice . I pray that you can bring light into the lives of people who are strugling out there.
    Peace be with you.

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    1. What a lovely comment, thank you very much. In solidarity :-)

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