Sunday, 30 December 2012

Faux feminism - part deux

What is WRONG with women ? I ask because I have not long returned from a break with my family in Ireland and having speed read the internet, I'm just perplexed at raw hatred.

In some respects, I'm a simple soul. At the core of my belief system is simply this - 'walk a mile in my shoes'. At a time when women so clearly need to bond together, what's with the divide and rule campaign ? As you know, I have never been a fan of faux feminism, I truly believe that if you purport to fight for the rights of women, then you purport to fight for the rights of all women, it's as simple as that.

So, a woman is gang raped in India and quite rightly, very many women jump up and proclaim the injustice of it. A woman is reunited with her daughter who was stolen from her many years ago, and the vast majority of us jump up and celebrate, except for those of us who believe that the man is master, and to overrule his say is to deny intrinsic faith.

One woman goes into the Scottish Parliament and says that sex between consenting adults where money happens to change hands is no longer okay, and what happens ? A mass roll over. Those women who read up on suffragettes and the right to vote, those women who campaign for the right to choose, those women who campaign for the right to equal pay under a glass ceiling - suddenly become silent. Why ?

Why is there a hierarchy of women's rights ? Why is it okay for women to write in the press of oppression through the media via their sexual choices, be they bi, tri, poly - but when the subject of the exchange of sex for cash comes up, absolute silence ? There is something very wrong there.

Thinking back to when I was outed in a small highland town and to you, those women who held a sneaking respect for the lifestyle I had at the time, isn't it time that you forgave your upbringing ? I did. Isn't it time that you acknowledged, that somewhere deep inside you there is a sneaking respect for a woman who is so confident in her own body and sexuality that she can go forth and use that gift to provide pleasure and healing to others?

What are you afraid of ? That you'll be judged ? Look around you, the queue is simply straining at the seams and with far more heinous crimes.

LL xx

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas - Irish Style

I had a bit of a moment this morning. I was pondering equality - trying to eat white and black pudding in the same proportions when Mass began in earnest, broadcast live from the local church. I thought about the attendees, wondering if they included the couple who were arguing loudly beneath the window of my hotel last night as to the state of their sex life.

“Everyone does it, you’re just being awkward”.
“NO THEY DON’T and stop trying to make me feel bad for not wanting to put that YOKE in my gob”.

I wondered if the congregation included the man from the night before who was running amok with mistletoe, to the point where hotel staff had to interject and ask him to sit down because ‘no’ was not a feature of his somewhat limited vocabulary. Of course the beauty of Catholicism is, you can do what you want provided you confess all, preferably before you arrive at the pearly gates with the traditional English and Scots man. So, a few Hail Marys later (add one Glory Be if you’re going for canonisation) and no-one minds a bit of harassment, what with the season that’s in it. Besides, women on the west coast don’t take any prisoners. Around here there’s no such thing as legal action or any such nonsense, it’s knock your assailant out with one clean punch and then back to the bar, before they call last orders or worse, before you forget how many Hail Marys you owe. Incidentally, man with mistletoe made to come over in my general direction but I pulled myself up to my full height in kick ass boots, leather trousers and my newly acquired long leather coat and there was a sudden screech of brakes. Faced with a woman who resembled a curious hybrid of Leather Face and an extra from The Matrix, I’d back off an’ all.

It’s truly wonderful here though, the people are so welcoming and loving, indeed I’ve had my hand shaken until my upper arm started to seriously discolour. The greetings and sayings we have are fantastic. How to win instant popularity is to answer an enthusiastic greeting in our native tongue, which is very possibly where I went wrong with mistletoe man. ‘Dia dhuit’ is an everyday ‘hello’ and literally translated means ‘God be with you’. The answer is ‘Dia is Mhuire dhuit’, which means ‘God and Our Lady be with you’.

Where these wonderful Irishisms run into trouble is when they are translated into English, and the phrase ‘lost in translation’ comes to mind. “Happy Christmas to ye, and many more of them”. To me that reads as follows; ‘have a wonderful Christmas and like, I hope you don’t die very soon’. I’m sure the originator of that phrase would turn in his peaty, watery grave if he heard that contemporary usage.

Of course, real Catholics take approximately forty five minutes to swear, none of your ‘f’ words here. You can literally wander off and make a cup of coffee, before coming back to see if they’re finished. ‘Sweet sacred heart of divine suffering son of eternally glorious virginal ….. ad infinitum’.

Tonight’s mission then, is to go real life trolling. I’m going to see if I can elicit the longest curse in Irish history and record it for posterity. They’ll thank me in the long run, a spot on The Late Late Show awaits.

LL xx

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Annus horribilis / Annus mirabilis

2012 has been a roller coaster of a year, no doubt about that.

It was the year for change and growth.

On a couple of occasions I was taken aback, courtesy of people I thought I could trust. Part of being an adult, though, is to learn from every experience and at any rate - the signs of toxicity were screamingly apparent. So, two choices. Either dwell on the negativity or focus on the renewed energy and drive which comes from finally saying - "I'm done with you". I choose the latter, particularly when every time I questioned why on earth I had ever allowed myself to become involved with such people there were several other people ready to pick me up and dust me down, never for a minute questioning my choices. 2012 is the year when I learned that sooner or later, the mask always slips and the lesson for the future is to take that first glimpse as a stark warning.

2012 was the year when I learned not to be afraid of the media. In years gone past, when a journalist made contact, yours truly would be found hiding behind the nearest available sofa, but no more. When it comes to media work, provided I have the support of my sex worker advocate colleagues, my real friends and my family, then that's all I need. I have come to realise that there are some members of the media who are very definitely sex work positive - the challenge now is how to stop them editing interviews to infinity and beyond.

Speaking of being misquoted, allow me to share with you a short tale from this morning. To borrow a phrase from my good friend N, I don't come out of this one very well. Not in my actions per se, but my reactions. I got upset and I cried. No, I howled. Because of SCASE. For the uninitiated, SCASE is the Scottish Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation and, well, they hate me. With reference to the first two paragraphs I've written above, I don't actually care about that. From time to time I peek in at their Facebook page and I've become accustomed to the snarky comments, the sarcasm and the back-slapping.

So why did I get so upset this morning? Well, I read a piece which SCASE have paraded on their site and Twitter feed, my mistake. With other haters I just block them on every site I can think of and resolve never again to subject my corneas to their drivel. This is a formula which works. Quite what possessed me to go and read this piece KNOWING it was going to be blatant hatred, I do not know. I've learned my lesson now, of course and blocked them everywhere but that's a little like locking the stable door after the entire farm has bolted.

So to the piece itself. Allow me to make this clear, SCASE didn't write this piece, it is the anonymous submission of one of their members. However, they did parade it with glee, so I take it as being representative of their views.

First off we have -

"The pro-sex work lobby in Scotland has attacked individuals online and as a result they have experienced high levels of harrassment (sic) and abuse"

Run that one past me again? I have NEVER harassed any abolitionist online. EVER. I went so far as to praise both Rhoda Grant and Jan MacLeod for being approachable and friendly women. Next.

"What about the women who have not had media training or had the chance to polish their media personality"?

The only reason I have had an opportunity to polish my media 'personality' is because I am up to my ears defending the rights of ordinary decent women against bigots like you. Also, those 'other' women are afraid of coming forward and speaking to the media because THIS is exactly what happens - personal attacks from cowardly anonymous keyboard warriors. Next.

"What about the women who don’t write blogs about how transgressive, revolutionary and empowering prostitution is? What about all those women who are struggling to cope and don’t position themselves to get book deals or plays written about them"?

What about them ? Have you gone out to the saunas and the streets and spoken to these women ? Thought not. I have. Also, exactly who do you think you are to presume that I have never struggled to cope ? You know nothing about me and my background, only what you see in the press and that is edited to death. Next - this was the one that really got me ...

"I have heard vulnerable women described disrespectfully by “sex-work” representatives as “drug addled prostitutes,” with little empathy for their situations and how they have ended up involved".

There you go again. Taking what I said completely out of context and to suit your own agenda. THAT'S NOT WHAT I SAID. I said, "let's step back from the hysteria of the stereotype of drug addled prostitutes and see sex work for what it is, an incredibly multi layered and diverse industry".

Let me explain something to you in plain English. I started sex work in the dingiest of dumps in Dublin, working for 'pimps'. Each week I went to the sex workers' clinic held in Haddington road, so I could socialise with sex workers and not feel so alone. Whilst I was there I made some friends for life, including street sex workers, one of whom I chat to online daily. It was those women who stood by my side when I reported a client for raping me, who went with me to the Garda station. It was those women who did me the honour of inviting me to christenings, communions and weddings. To this day, it is those women and their friendship I miss.

I was a law student then, and those women really believed that I would help them. It may be twenty years later but damn right I'm going to help them. I'm going to do EVERYTHING in my power to stop these laws going through and stop those women I loved so much suffer at the hands of 'feminists'. Unlike you, I am quite prepared to shake off my cloak of anonymity if that's what it takes. Because I OWE THEM. I owe them for what they did for me and I owe them for the suffering they have already been through. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

So congratulations, both you and SCASE made me cry today. You made me cry for the women of my past, those women who are lost forever, either through sex work or through drug addiction or through sheer poverty. Some got out, with no help from organisations such as yours.

I ought to mention - that last night I sat in a room filled with people in Glasgow to remember the victims of violence through sex work. We cried. We cried for our friends, for our colleagues and for the bloody injustice of it all. Don't let me stop you, go right ahead and press for this law to be passed, but know that you will be placing real women in danger, women just like you and me. I hope you're going to be immensely proud of yourself.

I ought to thank you really, whoever you are. Because once I had stopped sobbing I realised that - it's bigots like you who spur me on to do what I do. When sheer exhaustion kicks in and I'm getting sick to death of the threats, it's women like you who give me that last five percent of strength which says - "keep going". So thank you.

To you the writer and to SCASE, I'm done with you.

To my friends, my fellow sex workers and everyone else I simply adore, Merry Christmas. May you enjoy the rest and relaxation and may we all hit the ground running in 2013.

LL xx

Friday, 14 December 2012

Belfast and bum sliding

It's been a frenetic week thus far. I lighted back on Scottish soil yesterday and flew up the road to my humble abode to get busy with my submission to La Grant. It's not great, but it hits the main points and campaigning will persist in spite of various offers of assistance towards my demise. Abolitionists really ought to be introduced to the wonders of spell check, not to mention internet security.

My visit to Belfast was wonderful, I thoroughly enjoyed a brief trip to the Christmas market and the usual permutations of perversion. My final client of Wednesday evening was a rather genteel chap and terribly nervous into the bargain. I lit some candles and played some soft soothing music in the background too, hoping that eventually, he would relax. Ordinarily, that combination would work without question, were it not for the room filled with gobshites immediately opposite. Not content with contaminating their own ears with what could reasonably be described as aural torture, they subjected the entire hotel to two hours of what I believe is referred to as 'trance' or what you and I would refer to as music (sic) for those in the middle of a psychotic episode.

Thankfully, it all went quiet, either because they had passed out in a drug induced stupor and were visualising little fluffy clouds or because they had moved onto a club. Suffice to say I was very glad when the time came to embrace my beaming guy and wish him goodnight. Having closed the door, something was bothering me and I knew I couldn't ignore it. It's what I call my spidey sense, essential in the sex trade.

The "Do not disturb" sign, yes that's what it was. Having narrowed my eyes, I peeped through the spyhole and sure enough, there it was. Belfast's answer to "Trainspotting" had nicked my DND sign and put it on their own door. I THINK NOT.

Bounding across the hall, I snatched the sign back and placed it on my door handle. Fait accompli, except now I had a problem. I had left my own room without a key and the door had slammed behind me. SHIT.

I resembled one of the delegates from Lady Marmalade, hair flowing, stockings and suspenders, killer heels and a thong which would cut Swiss cheese. I remembered the wise words of my pal in Brighton and decided that keeping my ass to the wall would be exceptionally wise. There was nothing else to do but wait, and I don't mind telling you, those were the longest 12.457 minutes of my entire life.

In time, a tipsy but perfectly lovely couple emerged from the lift. There was a sharp intake of breath, followed by ...

"Are you, I mean ... do you need ..."

"That would be lovely, do you mind ? Only I really can't .."

"Not a problem, give me two minutes".

Mister Lovely Couple went sprinting back down to reception to get a room key. In the interim, Mrs. Lovely Couple managed an entire conversation without eye contact, quite an achievement really.

"So, good ...ah ....night then?"

"Yes, just this, you know. MORTIFIED".

"Yes. I mean no. Whoops".

Having gratefully received the new key from Mr. Lovely Couple, I can say with an enormous degree of certainty that I really wouldn't recommend bum sliding up the wall of a hotel to retain any last shred of dignity.

LL xx

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A letter from an Irish sex worker to the Irish Justice Committee

Today, the Irish Justice Committee is hearing evidence relating to prostitution legislation. Only one small problem with that, there isn't a prostitute in sight. Not ONE. Every group giving evidence are staunchly anti-sex work and will roll out blatant falsehoods to ensure that their funding continues. Several sex workers, (myself included) offered to travel to Dublin and speak at the hearings but we were ignored. I am re-blogging the letter below from one very brave Irish sex worker who refuses to be ignored.

I am sending this same email to every single member of the Justice Committee and two relevant Ministers, because the total exclusion of real sex workers from the Justice Committee hearings on legislation that will directly affect them is totally unacceptable, and even unjustifiable under any circumstances, but under circumstances where you will be inviting several NGOs with an adversarial position towards them to make false claim to speak on their behalf this amounts to running a government committee like a kangaroo court, and each one of you who supports this decision should be ashamed.

There is no NGO currently speaking for sex workers in any real sense. All NGOs ruthlessly exclude them from decision making as if they were stray animals, or some kind of substandard, feral people in need of guidance and control from their “betters”. They even go so far as to abuse invalid statistics and distort facts to cultivate this as an image of sex workers in the public eye. The truth is, most sex workers are of above average intelligence, many of them are remarkably well read and/or well educated. They are intelligent people who can do their own thinking and speak for themselves far better than the NGOs who try to insist on being funded to do it for them against their will and sex workers are likely to base that thinking and self-representation on reality rather than the usual NGO basis of pursuit of agenda and funding that is mostly deployed on huge and superfluous salaries and expenses.

Sex workers did not ask for NGO or State assistance in the first place. Many sex workers have already been failed multiple times by the HSE and voluntary and community sector. They are often fully aware of the shortcoming of that system and have made a positive choice to reject further malign interference due to the limitations of unwanted poverty and use the high wages from sex work to take care of their own lives, families, and problems, in a fully autonomous way that no longer leaves them at the mercy of anyone. They are proud people who do not want to discuss, let alone whine on and on about their personal problems, they just want to get on with using the high wages from sex work to solve them.

Ruhama foisted themselves on sex workers in 1989, when sex work was street based by the simple ruse of parking the van so nobody could make any money until someone pretended to engage with them against their will. They omitted to mention that they were outreach for the Magdalene Laundries (that would not be exposed for another 4 years or shut down for another 7). Ruhama, and the orders behind them, have never apologised, even for this deception. Thankfully the women sensed something very wrong anyway and just humoured them without ever really engaging.

With one or two gullible exceptions who stayed around until all their hopes were shattered, the only women who have ever engaged with Ruhama since are a handful of opportunists with considerable expertise in playing the system. They are not remotely representative of sex workers. Some of them have never even been sex workers.

It had been my intention to send this as hard copy accompanied by a sworn affidavit I am in a position to make that states that I have never seen the individual who asks to be known as FreeIrishWoman selling sex on Waterloo and Burlington Road before April 1993 and as I was a full time street worker and it was a small area and community this would be impossible if she had worked there as she claimed. FreeIrishWoman is now making expenses paid trips to the USA to tap into the almost unlimited funding available to “abolitionist survivors” from the Hunt Foundation and similar in the USA. Unfortunately I am seriously ill and cannot organise that affidavit but I am happy to swear it at any time that I physically can. (I have informed Sarah Benson of Ruhama of this fraud and have yet to receive even a response, several weeks later. I am also willing to attest to this on oath.)

If you insist on listening to this particular Ruhama backed fraud rather than extend the same courtesy to any of the real autonomous sex workers who were willing to risk everything to speak to you as a committee, then let there be no room for any claim of ignorance after the fact, or ever.

Sex workers never asked for or wanted NGO assistance, they certainly do not want to be defined and misrepresented in their absence by NGOs and affiliated HSE services. In the early 80s, a sex worker called Dolores Lynch demanded to bring a group of sex workers to speak to the Minister for Justice. He refused to see her. Shortly afterwards she was murdered, literally by fire, as a direct result of her advocacy. Very few people have her kind of courage, yet she is forgotten, to the extent that the Justice Committee STILL refuses to see sex workers unless a self appointed, anti-sex work NGO has them on a tight leash that assures they will bear false witness to the current fad in propaganda.

I realise the Justice Committee have already made up their minds without ever seeking the facts at all. Apparently the simple fact that any attempt to “end the demand” will take away the income of women who are already desperate without offering any alternative is inadmissible. What is the point in being decriminalised if you cannot eat or keep a roof over your head?

The Committee took off to Sweden, at the expense of the State, to hear the same hard sell “sales pitch” you have already heard several times before, and did not even attempt to hear the other, more realistic, side. You wouldn’t even buy a car that way, but apparently that is good enough for sex workers as you do your best to destroy the only livelihood they have in a recession. (What ON EARTH do you THINK happens to people when they run out of ways to survive?), but the women who are willing to bite down all their fears to present the truth to you DESERVE that you give them the respect of a hearing instead of the ongoing mockery of encouraging their worst adversaries to lie against their best interests instead.

No-one knows how far this recession will go before it turns. There is no money to meet everybody’s needs.

Next week’s budget will leave a few more people with no survivable alternative to sex work, god knows why you feel it will be *a good thing* to make that harder still on them, by taking away the market on which their last resort depends. You are all comfortably off, and get enough even in expenses to provide for at least any of those women without her having to sell sex.

What could you possibly know about the terrifying and dire consequences of taking that last option income away? Yet you are not even willing to try and learn about it from the people who do.

Because of the recession and cutbacks in essential resources that cannot be avoided, there are ALREADY too many sex workers competing for demand that is dwindling because of the recession. The women have to offer more invasive services, more cheaply, to compete, because they still need the money just as badly to survive and keep their homes and families together because their lives have fallen through the ever widening gaps in the welfare net.

(The impression of the majority of sex workers as addicts or similar who are prevented from rehabilitation by deriving an income from sex work is yet another outright lie used as propaganda by the NGOs. The majority of sex workers are mothers, paying the same kind of essential bills as anyone else. We never had a welfare net that took care of everybody, there were always some people left out, and now we can’t even to sustain the welfare net we have.)

If you “reduce the demand” you will not reduce sex workers real need for the money, you will just make their lives impossible.

“Turn Off the Red Light” core orgs are fully aware of this, but do not want to tell the truth about it, because they would rather abuse that situation to force enough of the women to engage with them *against their will* out of sheer desperation so that they can justify continued and even increased funding, the women who do not engage with them are designated collateral damage in their race to the bottom for funding allocation.

To claim that supports are, or will be, available goes beyond mockery. The “Turn Off the Red Light” orgs have never had any real help to offer apart from ongoing indoctrination in the alternate reality they have cultivated in support of their agenda that has become a cult like ideology that is as far removed from the reality of sex workers lives, and as unhealthy as handing over their lives to a dysfunctional religious cult.

In addition I have always been lead to believe that telling another person what they think and feel is abusive, harmful and destructive, but apparently if it is a “Turn Off the Red Light” member org, treating a sex worker that way it suddenly becomes helpful and supportive…to everyone but the sex worker on the receiving end, who is likely to suffer severe PTSD from the cognitive dissonance alone.

Would you place your life, and family, at the mercy of a weird cult who treat you as a child, regularly lie to you and about you and demand you pretend that black is white. Because that is what Ruhama and affiliated orgs want laws to force and state funding to pursue.

(I have absolutely no idea how anyone can justify sanctioning the Immigrant Council of Ireland to deploy the majority of their funding on salaries and administration costs, not related to immigrants, but to a propaganda initiative to abolish sex work. To me that seems to meet the criteria for criminal fraud.)

I could not live with watching the terrible harm the legislation proposed by “Turn of the Red Light” will do, unless I knew I had done my utmost to stop it.

That effort will never make me fit to wash Dolores Lynch’s feet, but I suspect it makes me far better than every one of you deciding to refuse to even listen to real sex workers, before deciding to destroy their lives and pretend it is for their own good.

I have no illusions left for anyone to play on now. I dreaded coming before the committee because I am too angry, for too many reasons and have deep issues that mean I may not be able to guarantee to contain that. But I honestly do not see why you must deny all the people you are determined to make life impossible for even a fair hearing. For some sex workers you will literally be writing their death warrants (that would have been the case for me at several times in my life and may be so again soon enough) yet you will not let them plead their own case, preferring to listen instead to their adversaries lying about them.

In a decade or so “Turn Off the Red Light” and “The Swedish Model” and the REAL consequences will be as big a scandal as the Magdalene Laundries – the only real advantage is the vote catching potential through appeasing a bloc of corrupt, self serving, NGOs.

That is truth.

As the “Information Age” has quietly become the “Propaganda Age”, truth is the one thing nobody wants to care about any more.

It wouldn’t kill any of you to treat a few free sex workers who are independent of the NGOs like fully paid up members of the human race and listen to them for a couple of hours before you do your best to destroy their world without a court of appeal.

Think on it.

Friday, 7 December 2012

The times, they are a-Changin'

Once upon a time, there was a man I was quite simply mad about. I'll call him D. He supported me through some very turbulent times and never stopped believing in me, even when I couldn't go to my local supermarket without someone shouting abuse at me in the car park. "I didn't know they sell hookers here now ! Is it buy one get one free ?" When you consider that D was raised in 1950's Ireland, then his support was all the more important, because it broke through every societal barrier you can think of.

"Never let these people get to you, hold your head up high. What matters is how you feel about yourself and those around you who will love you regardless." In time, came the shocking news that D was dying, he had terminal cancer and it was a matter of weeks, which very quickly became days. With a huge knot in my stomach, I went to his bed side and was truly lost for something to say. I didn't want him to see me getting upset so I smiled and asked him how he was feeling.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I've made my peace. Besides, the priest was in and I told him to put me down for everything except rape and murder". Thereafter came the explosion of maniacal laughter combined with guttural sobbing and I told him, "I'm going to miss you". His reply is something which will stay with me for the rest of my life. He said, "You may not know this but you were put on this earth to help the underdog. Be true to yourself and make sure you fulfil that promise for me".

D's funeral was hard for me, it was my first experience of death and when I kissed him goodbye as he was laid in the coffin, I thought my heart was going to physically break. I took comfort from the fact that he looked so peaceful, towards the end of his life he was in so much pain that no amount of morphine could take away the permanent frown he had. In death, he looked beautiful, so serene.

I've never forgotten D's words although it has taken me many years to work out what he meant. When D died, I was in the second year of my first degree which was law, and truly, I thought I was going to change the world. Myself and my Uni pals had an idealistic vision of challenging every law ever set into statute, but I was soon to find out that in Ireland, unless you have family in the law or are sleeping with half of the law library, getting briefs is actually incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Since I was already sleeping with half of the law library on a part time basis anyway, it seemed like a futile exercise to chase a career where every time I got to my feet I would look across the court room and be reminded of time spent on my back.

Unperturbed, I dusted myself off and went into financial services, for nine years. That went horrendously wrong in the end and I will write about it in the future, but the time isn't right yet. So the time had arrived, attempt at career number three. What to do ? I decided to go back to Uni and study, since academia has always been a part of my life and I adore a challenge. I'm still studying, and very much enjoying it too.

Through all of the changes, the upsets, the move from Ireland to Scotland and my transition from irresponsible student to semi-responsible mother, the sex industry always called me back. I've retired three times now, and not had a carriage clock yet. Over the last twelve months though, a new transition has begun. I speak to the media. I now know that I have years of experience in the sex industry under my belt and I can speak with authority against those who seek to stop what we do. Finally, I have a knowledge and an area of expertise which no-one can take away from me.

Tomorrow, I'm going to Leeds to film a documentary with Channel 4 about my work with disabled clients and I wouldn't say I'm nervous, I'm terrified, although I know it will be fine once I start. I will be throwing off my cloak of invisibility because what we do as sex workers with disabled clients is too important. The general public need to see what we do, our gentle, nurturing side.

Thank you D. Finally, now I get what you meant and I hope you're proud.

LL xx

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Nefarious - A sex worker's review

Sub titled the "Merchant of Souls", Nefarious is a documentary currently being screened by Abolition Scotland. I went to a viewing in a church in Johnstone. My companion and I immediately aroused suspicion and the lovely lady who was hosting the evening asked who we were and where we were from. Whilst my friend answered her questions, I fumbled around in my bag and finally fished out my glasses and notebook, perhaps they thought I was a reporter. I've become quite accustomed to sitting in a room full of abolitionists and holding my own but there was no necessity for that here, because this was a very different environment. This was a group of truly lovely people, devoutly spiritual and all ready to be exposed to the 'truths' of trafficking.

The film opened with a look at Moldova, which is reportedly at the heart of trafficking. Here, we were told, 10% of the country have been trafficked. There was no mention of an overall population figure or the industries attached to that percentage, be they domestic servitude, factory work or the sex industry. The figure of 10% was offered as a bald fact.

The next segment was entitled - 'The Breaking Rooms'. Having answered advertisements for offers of jobs abroad or having been simply snatched from the streets, it is here that the young girls are repeatedly raped and beaten until they comply with their handler's orders. Their treatment was horrific and the psychological torture that they endured was heart breaking. One statement stuck with me from that segment, that once some of these girls are sourced from an orphanage, they fall into 'a vortex' and are not missed. Why not ? Can you imagine if a child was snatched from an orphanage in the UK ? There would be a nationwide search and no stone left unturned until she was found.

The film moved on to Cambodia to look at the child sex trade and there is no other description for it, it was stomach turning. Here, we were told, there is a flourishing industry in the sale of a daughter to the sex trade. There was a horrific image of a seven year old girl's pyjamas, badly blood stained around the groin where she had been raped by a 'punter'. As a mother, that made me cry. I couldn't help but think of my own daughter when we saw images of very young girls wearing next to nothing and reluctantly flirting with punters. I wanted to scoop every one of those little girls up and just get them the hell out of there, to where they could be children again. And safe.

Then came the statistics. 80 to 90% of parents in Cambodia sell their daughters to the sex trade. Often,(we were told) it's not to provide for food or other such necessities but luxuries, such as mobile phones and televisions. Indeed, in some cases, the women celebrate when they give birth to a girl because they know that as soon as she becomes in any way exploitable she will be their ticket to a new life of prosperity. What a disgusting conjecture to make.

As a mother myself, I object to the unfounded hypothesis that the majority of an entire race will see a baby girl as a meal ticket. Mothers will fight to the death for their children and would offer themselves in a heartbeat to save them, that's reality. Of course there are exceptions to that rule but to broadly proclaim a figure of 80 - 90% where there is no real basis or evidence to substantiate that is misleading and counter factual.

Throughout the screening Melissa Farley was interviewed. Since Farley's evidence has been treated as biased and questionable by a court of law, and not forgetting the complaint to the APA, then I disregard any of her assertions.

At the end of the screening, a member of Abolition Scotland stood on the altar of the church to address our group. This was the moment I had been waiting for. They thanked us for coming, asked for donations and sold some DVD's and then began to speak in favour of Rhoda Grant's proposal to criminalise the purchase of sex. The film we had just been shown, (they said) is just the tip of the iceberg. Trafficking is RIFE in Scotland too. Why only in 2006 did a police report make mention of 6,000 people trafficked into Scotland, with approximately 90% of those destined for the sex industry.

Mathematics was never my strong point but I'm pretty sure Abolition Scotland just claimed that in 2006, there were 5,400 prostitutes trafficked into Scotland. Isn't it simply amazing then that last year we had one conviction ? ONE.

Needless to say I'm going to request a copy of that 'police report' and debunk the statistics they are using for myself, because that's a MUST do.

Of all the memories which will stay with me from that evening, one of the most potent was the woman behind me who was visibly moved. She was going to write to Rhoda Grant, she said, because THAT level of trafficking in Scotland is simply not acceptable. It took all of my self control to resist initiating a friendly debate based on fact, but I believe that it is far better to write about the truth and inform many than to channel my energy into challenging one.

LL xx