Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year - My Way

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final night in,
My friend, I'll make it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full,
Travelled every feckin' highway;
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, there's been a few;
But then again, I cannae mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through with much discretion.

I planned each pre-booked tour;
Each careful step, stuck on the motorway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spat it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
In high heels anyway.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried.
I've had my fill; my share of schmoozing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
"No, oh no not me,
I did it my way".

For what is a girl, what has she got?
If not herself, then she has naught.
To say the things she truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way.

Happy New Year, one and all. :)

LL xx

Friday, 30 December 2011

An Australian sex worker speaks out ....

All I want for Christmas is the decriminalisation of sex work because it's the gift that keeps on giving - not just to me. I'm not being selfish, even though it would benefit me as a sex worker in South Australia, where sex work is criminalised.

For me, decriminalisation would mean I have the same workplace rights as every other worker in South Australia. It would mean I could call on police in an emergency rather than put myself in danger trying to avoid them. It would mean I don't have to find places to hide my condoms in case they are used against me as evidence. It would mean I could be clear with potential clients about my service and my limitations without fearing they are an undercover police officer.

It would mean my criminal record for receiving money in a brothel, from 15 years ago, would be cleared rather than being kept on file forever as a 'sex crime.' For me and thousands of criminalised sex workers in Australia, it would mean I could prioritise my own health and safety over police evasion.

But this is not just a gift to me and other sex workers in SA; it is also a gift to our state and our country. South Australia was the second place in the world to give women the vote, and the first place in the world to allow women to stand for parliament.

We were the first place in the country to decriminalise homosexual sex between males, to introduce a public housing scheme, to introduce anti discrimination legislation, to legalise abortion (in some circumstances) and we were the first in the 'English speaking world' to make rape in marriage illegal. South Australia has been a leader on social policy in many areas, but our sex work laws are letting the team down.

The laws, which are contained in the Summary Offences Act 1953 and the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935, are the oldest in the country. We could be showing some direction to the nation on this issue and reclaiming our place amongst the world leaders on progressive social policy.

Instead we continue to waste public resources by actively policing what, even the police commissioner agrees, are archaic and unworkable laws, while our politicians go through theirseventh attempt at law reform. None of this time or money spent is helping otherwise law abiding sex workers, nor is it addressing the concerns of the wider community.

South Australia is in an excellent position to consider the models of sex industry regulation being used around us. Every state and territory in Australia has a different version of criminalisation and regulation, and in the case of NSW, decriminalisation.

New Zealand, (the first place in the world to give women the vote) decriminalised sex work 10 years ago. A multi agency evaluation report shows successful outcomes for sex workers health rights and wellbeing, and no negative outcome for the general public. We have Australian reports that support decriminalisation as best practice, such as those coming out from the Laws and Sexual Health (LASH) research. Scarlet Alliance and all the Scarlet Alliance members, organised sex workers speaking through our projects and organisations networking with sex work projects nationally and internationally, all are asking for decriminalisation.

It would be such an easy wish to grant. Just like in NSW and NZ we already have all the laws in place that can give sex workers access to industrial protections, ensure there are occupational health and safety standards, minimise public amenity issues, ensure environmental and public health and protect workers against exploitation.

Once the laws that criminalise sex workers are removed, all the laws that apply to every other worker, workplace and business will apply to sex workers and the sex industry. All the research, evaluating, experimenting and law making is already done for us - we just need to amend the Acts that criminalise us.

And it wouldn't just be a Christmas gift to me and the approximately 1000 other sex workers in our state, the many more who have left the industry but still have a lifelong police record, and the many sex workers who will come after me - but it would be a gift to the South Australian community as a whole.

New Zealand has shown us that decriminalisation does not result in a brothel on every corner. In fact, the sex industry did not grow at all in NZ after decriminalisation. Removing the laws that criminalise sex workers and giving us access to the same rights and responsibilities as other workers and citizens, means that existing laws can address many of the concerns of our neighbours and communities effectively. Surely it is easier to address a parking issue with current laws that deal with parking, rather than 1930's brothel laws.

Decriminalisation also sends a message to the community that everyone deserves to be safe. December 17 was international day to end violence against sex workers. Decriminalisation supports sex workers' safety by removing the barriers sex workers face when accessing police, allowing sex workers to work in ways that are safe and by reducing stigma against sex workers - all of which impact on sex workers safety. Anything that reduces violence against a particular group of people is a gift to the whole community.

So this year my Christmas wish is for South Australia to continue its proud tradition of leading the way in progressive and non discriminatory social policy by decriminalising sex work, and once again show the world that giving people basic rights will not result in the sky falling in.

Ari Reid is the Vice-President of Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

I found this ....

.... on the intertubeswebthingy and rather liked it. It draws a comparison between Gillian McKeith (or to give her her full medical title - Gillian McKeith) and that kinkstress of the kitchen, Nigella Lawson.

I know which one I'd rather be. On the basis that it will help me avoid facial lines, I am off to dive headfirst into a warm choccy fudge cake, ( pouring cream optional ).

LL xx

Follow ups and Formspring

While I was away in The Green Isle, I see that Lynne from Quay Services in Aberdeen has put up a response to my condemnation of Grampian police and their tactics, on Harlot's Parlour. I'm very encouraged that Quay Services have approached the police about their conduct too and I know they offer fantastic support to sex workers.
Her letter is below -

Hi Laura

My name is Lynne and I work for Quay Services in Aberdeen. It was interesting and thought-provoking to read your thoughts in response to The Kennedy report and I notice that you refer to information on our website regarding the approach that Grampian Police are implementing in Grampian. I felt it important to respond to your blog entry as I would like to clarify what Quay Services is about and also clarify the reasons as to why the information regarding the police is featured on our website.

Quay Services provides free condoms, lube, panic alarms and information/support to women working in the sex industry in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. Our main priority is ensuring the safety of women whilst they are working as much as possible. We also provide support to women on going to college, employment, housing etc. Recently we have had contact from several women working independently as escorts who have experienced Grampian Police turning up at their place of work. This has caused much panic and women have subsequently been in touch with us to raise their concern and seek an understanding of what is happening. As such, we have liaised with Grampian Police in order to gain a better understanding of their approach so that this will allow us to inform women and hopefully offer some reassurance.

As you have highlighted, there appears to be a diverse approach operating within the different police forces across Scotland. Our intention of having this information on our website is purely to make women aware of the purpose of Grampian Police with regards to women sex working in Grampian.

In relation to your comment regarding how information taken by Grampian Police may stop you getting a job working with children or in the caring profession, I understand that this must be a very real concern. However, we have been told by Grampian Police that the information gained by them regarding women who are working off-street is kept confidential within a small team in Grampian Police and as such would not appear on a PVG check.

Quay Services has taken on board your comments and are changing how the information regarding the Police approach appears on our website to clarify our role at Quay Services.

We at Quay Services are open to any feedback that you could offer which would help women working off-street. Your comments and input would be gratefully received.

Many thanks,
Quay Services Worker

I think it would be beneficial to contact Lynne directly at this juncture and also put the finishing touches on my letter to the Chief Constable of Grampian police too.

Just to let you know, I have once again opened Formspring and you will find a link on my blog page. I have always kept up to date with reading other people's answers and really enjoyed them so thought I'd give it another whirl myself. That said, any questions which are blatantly from anti's, disgruntled or just mad members of the industry or worse, their lapdogs ( not to mention knuckle dragging cavemen ) will simply be deleted, so please don't waste your time.

I'm off to Belfast on Monday so will catch up with you from there.

LL xx

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Stresses and Seasonal Greetings

Last Wednesday was up there in the top five most stressful days in my entire life, not least because when I awoke at silly o'clock, it quickly became apparent that boy cat had been very busy indeed. It looked like Christmas had come early in our house because he had found the five pack of kit kats on the kitchen counter and torn the packaging apart, resulting in tiny little bits of silver wrapping all over the floor and one cat looking very guilty indeed, if not very definitely green around the gills. He's very lucky I've already bought him his whiskas stocking for Christmas.

I was already in window licking mode as it was, because I was due to be at the BBC studios in Glasgow at 7.45am at the latest, to do a radio interview. "Right, ( I thought ) if it's an escort they want then an escort they shall fecking well have". By the time the car came to pick me up I was primped and preened to perfection. Yes, I know that they were in another studio hundreds of miles away but that's not the point, I didn't want to slope into the building in my jeans and trainers, just - no.

When I say a "car" was sent to pick me up, actually a more accurate description would be a local taxi with the most intellectually challenged man ever to grace this earth therein. To cut a very long story short, he got hopelessly lost, in spite of having not one, but two sat navs. Meanwhile, he continued to make small talk -

"Whit are ye deen at the BBC hen ?"

"Um, I'm doing an interview".

"Oh aye, whit aboot ?"

"I'm a meteorologist and I'm going to talk about Hurricane Bawbag".
( Sometimes I could cheerfully kick myself up the arse, but it was a split second thing. )

My phone went again and it was the producer - "Right Laura, can't wait anymore so we'll be coming to you in about 5 minutes, also, can you stay on after nine and do the phone in ?" Deep panic set in now, there was no way I could do the interview in the taxi not least because by now the driver had lost it completely and was shrieking at the sat nav. So I asked him to stop the car and hopped out, right outside the STV studios ( which I later discovered is about 30 seconds from where I was supposed to be ). I found what looked like a relatively quiet spot around the side of the building and the interview began. We were about thirty seconds into it when around the corner came a forty foot articulated lorry with two smiling Weegies in it. "ALRIGHT DOLL ?" I tried desperately to gesture to them to keep it down, but ended up resembling a demented octopus and in the end just gave up.

I could have cried with relief when the producer said the first segment was over and I had about 40 minutes until the next one. Finally, I made it to the studio for that piece and some very kind soul handed me a mug of tea too. Overall, I felt the debate went OK, primarily I wanted to get the piece in about the legislation and I managed that, so I was quite pleased. I was far less pleased when I discovered that after they finished my bit they let a rad fem have free reign, I would dearly love to know how she can possibly consider paid sex between two consenting adults to be rape. Ho hum. The link to the piece is here. As regards the argument itself in relation to students "turning to prostitution", for as long as there has been prostitution and students, then there have been students IN prostitution, it's really that simple. I said I had noticed a marked increase in "newbies" but from across the board, not just students. As regards Peter Stringfellow's assertion that his "entertainers" don't count as part of the sex industry - um, right. Perhaps I should have told him that many years and several stone ago I worked as a dancer in London, which is all I will say on that. ;)

Anyway, I'm fully booked from now until Wednesday night, firstly taking some time with that slave of mine for our own unique brand of fun on the East coast to include a chest wax ( heh heh ), one final booking on Wed night in Glasgow and then I'm off. La Cub and I are off to The Motherland on Thursday to visit the clan, so all in all I won't be back in sunny Glasgow until December 27th.

It just remains for me to wish you all, a very Merry Christmas. Kick back and enjoy the rest and relaxation and I'll catch up with you when I get back.

LL xx

Saturday, 17 December 2011

A letter from the IUSW to the Scottish Police

Below is the text of the letter that myself, Amanda and many other activists will be sending to every Chief Constable in Scotland today.

Dear *insert name*,

We write to you in recognition of International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, today December 17th, to request information about your force’s policy on public protection for people in the sex industry.

People in the sex industry are often targeted for violent crime by perpetrators who know we are reluctant to contact the police due to fear of arrest. We are asking police forces nationwide to adopt the “Merseyside Model”. With the assistance of specialist services, Liverpool police are achieving a 68% detection rate for rapes committed against sex workers and a 90% conviction rate for other crimes of violence.

We ask you to meet with representatives of the International Union of Sex Workers and UK Network of Sex Work Projects to discuss this.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks, and all best wishes for the holiday season.

Let's hope we get a positive response.

LL xx

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Reports and remonstrations

Two brand new shiny reviews, here and here. Thanks Misters !!

While I remember it, huge thanks to David Cameron for the recent invaluable advice offered to the parents of those children without a teacher during the industrial action on Wednesday. "Take the kids to work".

Oh aye, because that will work. I should have taken herself to Belfast with me.

"Not now sweetpea, Mammy just needs to whip this naughty man and then I'll be right with you, we'll go to McDonalds I promise."


LL xx

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Kennedy report

Greetings from Inverness where it is so cold I have parts of me going hard that I didn't know I possessed. Ho hum.

I've been reading the report from the recent inquiry on human trafficking, chaired as it was by Baroness Helena Kennedy. The link to the report is here.
In total the report came up with ten findings, the most relevant to the sex industry being number one -

Scotland needs to have a comprehensive strategy to prevent and tackle human trafficking.

I can only agree with that, because as it stands, the "strategies" being adopted by the various police forces are diverse, to say the least. Firstly, there is Edinburgh, where there is a tolerance of parlours and to some extent, working flats also. The police there will visit the parlours regularly and ensure that the women are working of their own accord and are not being forced to do any acts they are unhappy with. In general "Indie's" are left alone to get on with their work, which is the way it should be.

Ms. Kennedy was quoted as saying that the police "aren't doing anything" which in the case of Strathclyde's finest in Glasgow, is untrue and unfair. In Glasgow they have been leafleting inner city flats with flyers in several different languages and where there have been foreign nationals present they have been raiding. Again, they seem to be leaving the Indie's alone.

However, in Aberdeen, there is a whole new approach being taken. I have taken the following passage from this leaflet issued by Quay Services in Aberdeen.

"Grampian Police are under duty to respond to any concerns regarding criminal activity from members of the public. If someone e.g. housekeeping/hotel staff, neighbours etc alert the Police to any activity that is deemed by them as suspicious e.g. different individuals coming to and from a flat, different women coming and going from a flat, noises that would indicate that the property was being used for sex etc, then the Police may visit the property.

This is because they are looking for any criminal activity related to prostitution and looking to ensure the safety of off-street sex workers.

Their main concerns include:

* Ensuring women’s safety
* Ensuring that there is no coercion/force i.e. human trafficking and making sure that the women present are working of their own free will
* Confirmation of identity i.e. women are who they say they are
* The prevention of bigger crimes - Grampian Police are of the opinion that this method of engaging with off-street sex workers may help to prevent larger scale crimes such as robberies and attacks on women by punters. It is hoped that by building a better rapport and trust with Grampian Police, women may feel more comfortable and able to inform Police about crimes committed against them, and ultimately feel more protected by Grampian Police.
* Grampian Police are keen to share information with off-street sex workers regarding dodgy punters and also wish to provide safety advice.

If the Police do come to your door, they will be looking to ascertain that you are working of your own free will and that you are working within the boundaries of the law. The main objective of the Police is to establish that women are working of their own free will and are not being commercially sexually exploited.

What normally happens next is that the Police will take your photograph – they do this because if something happened to you then they would be able to identify you more quickly and would help inform their investigation. The photograph is only seen by a small team of Officers who are working within the sex industry department of Grampian Police.

The Police will also take your contact details and run them through the Police National Computer (PNC check), a computer database system that is used by law enforcement agencies across the UK. They are looking for any outstanding warrants or any previous criminal convictions that they should be aware of. This is no different to what happens with ‘on-street’ sex workers.

If you are with a punter when Grampian Police turn up, they also will take a photograph and personal details from the punter (if he/she is present at the time of the Police visit). The punter’s details are also run through the PNC. This is also for your safety, to ensure that the punter is not a dangerous criminal or is wanted by the Police.

As long as there is no evidence of criminal activity or brothel keeping, then the Police will take no action. After Grampian Police have visited and are satisfied that you are working independently, they will ask you to call or text them next time that you are working in Aberdeen. This is because: if a hotel or serviced flat, for example, do contact them again with the same issues such as men coming to and from the property, then they will be able to confirm that you are not doing anything illegal. Then it is up to the individual establishment to decide whether they wish to take any action, such as asking you to leave.

The decision to ask you to leave is made by the venue and not at the insistence of Grampian Police, unless they have had a specific complaint.
Grampian Police wish to establish a good rapport with women working in prostitution. They want to help prevent crimes happening against you e.g. punter robberies, brothel involvement etc. By communicating with the Police about when you are working in Aberdeen, they endeavour to be able to pass onto you any information that is relevant to your wellbeing, such as giving details of a dodgy punter for you to look out for. And vice versa."

So let me just sum that up for you. Where there is a well known independent escort working quite legally in Aberdeen, the police will come to the premises and in spite of the fact she has committed no crime, they will take her name, her photograph and that of her client, who has also committed no crime. Lest we forget, this is in case of "trafficking". The bit that really irked me was this - "Then it is up to the individual establishment to decide whether they wish to take any action, such as asking you to leave." So picture the scene, plod arrive at a hotel and explain to the management that they are paying a visit to room 123 because there is a prostitute working there. OF COURSE THEY'RE GOING TO WANT HER OUT. So this "welfare" visit being conducted by the police amounts to little more than ensuring the lady is flung out of her accommodation, exactly how does that go towards ensuring her safety ?

As for the claim that only a select few of the vice unit will have the information gleaned, I'm confident that that's not the case either. The lady's details will be recorded on internal police intelligence files and she will be tagged as a "known prostitute". In real terms that means that if and when she ever applies for a Disclosure Scotland check, she will be turned down for any job that involves working with vulnerable people, such as children and disabled people.

To put that into context for you, I am the Mother of a stroppy ten year old. Never have my parenting skills been called into question and I have never had any contact with social services etc, however, if I apply for a job as a childminder, I'll be turned down, because I am a prostitute.

Also, I am registered with the TLC website and see quite a few disabled clients. So, it's perfectly OK ( and legal ) for me to have intimate sexual contact with them, but if I apply for a job as their carer, I'll be turned down, because I am a prostitute.

As is evident from the above, there is no unity in the actions of the police at all, different forces appear to be using entirely different tactics. Let's hope that Ms. Kennedy's vision of Scotland as a "centre for excellence" includes a marked improvement in the treatment of native sex workers because as it stands at the moment, in some areas it is nothing short of disgraceful.

It is a shame that when I wrote to Ms. Kennedy some time ago suggesting that we meet, my request was completely ignored,in spite of her statement in her report which said that she wanted to meet with victims first hand, and hear their stories. Therein lies the ultimate irony, because as a sex worker in Scotland I am a victim too. I am a victim of prejudice, stigma, social isolation and hatred not to mention being at the mercy of the various police forces.

Had I had the chance to meet Ms. Kennedy, my suggestion to tackle trafficking was a very straightforward and simple one. Who are the people ( aside from the traffickers themselves ) who come into regular contact with the women who so desperately need our help ? The CLIENTS. Ergo, what is needed is a move to open the channels of communication between the police and the clients. Any client should feel able to phone the police, explain that he visited a flat and wasn't happy with what he saw and KNOW that he can report it in complete confidence, with no long term ramifications for him, such as a record of him as a "punter".

Secondly, I strongly advocate a dramatic improvement in the relationship between sex workers and the police too. Having read my rant above, you'd be forgiven for thinking I have a dislike of the police. Not at all, in fact when I came up against an abusive client who was engaging in stalking behaviour I found them to be very supportive and they couldn't have been more helpful. However, whilst tactics similar to those that are happening in Aberdeen continue, then the gap will widen and a deeper mistrust will develop between "us and them". If a woman phones a flat looking for a job and when she gets there finds foreign nationals in a state of fear, will she report it when she knows she will then be tagged for life as a "known prostitute" ? Thought not.

I'm off to find a suitable surface to kick repeatedly, but I'll leave you with this wonderful quote from Ms. Kennedy -

"I take the view that the vast majority of women do indeed become prostitutes out of complex combinations of negative experiences, but for me the law should not make the judgement that, when a woman claims autonomy, she is in fact misguided."

LL xx

Friday, 2 December 2011

I'm still here .....

.... just very busy, and also in the process of moving this here blog to a wordpress platform as part of my website.

I will catch up very soon I promise.

In the meantime, cute kitty, LOOK !!

LL xx

P.S : Baroness Kennedy's report on trafficking has been published, I'm working my way through it today.