Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A letter to the Justice Minister for Northern Ireland

Dear Minister Ford,

I am a campaigner for sex workers' rights with the IUSW as well as in my personal capacity. I have been strongly opposed to the proposed criminalisation of clients of paid sex as proposed by Lord Morrow and have been actively and quite vocally campaigning.

I was delighted to learn that I had been invited to the Justice Committee hearing on Thursday 9th January, because as an Irish sex worker with twenty years experience I felt I could add some expertise to the proceedings and shed some light on the realities of the Irish sex industry, versus what paid NGO's with a vested interest in abolition would have us believe.

In over twenty years of sex work, never has a client made me feel as belittled as I did that day, due in the main to continuous personal attacks on my integrity from Jim Wells and Paul Givan. There is a You Tube video of my evidence here.

During the course of the Committee's questions, I was accused of working with and being financed by pimps, exploiting vulnerable disabled men and I was also compelled to reveal my real name, on camera and in public. This information is now in the hands of abolitionists who were sitting directly behind me and scribbling furiously. I have no doubt that they will use that information to the detriment of me and I feel that my personal safety now lies in jeopardy.

The manner in which I was spoken to is quite simply unacceptable, especially given that the other witnesses were treated with the utmost respect. It falls to a Justice Committee to collect evidence, something I was informed by Paul Givan that the Committee "do not need". I was not aware that is the further function of a Committee to berate and shout down witnesses.

As an advocate for sex workers' rights, I have come up against strong opponents in debates in the past, but I have always treated them as I would wish to be treated myself and I feel that in this instance, Mr Givan and Mr Wells went way beyond what could be considered 'reasonable behaviour', especially given their positions of trust and responsibility.

I thank you for taking the time to read my complaint and look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Laura Lee
International Union of Sex Workers

1 comment:

  1. Good luck with that, neither Peter Robinson not David Forde has found time to acknowledge my complaint sent on 13th.

    Dear ......

    I am completely appalled by the treatment of Laura Lee by MLA's Paul Givan and Jim Wells.

    Their questions were often personal, irrelevant, off topic, antagonistic and frequently loaded with something I can only describe as blind malice. Forcing her to give her real name was, quite obviously, a tactic aimed at discouraging and other sex workers from coming forward, as, because of stigma for many sex workers, the exposure of their real name can be the end of life as they know it, not only for themselves but their children too.

    Some of these superfluous enquiries could even endanger Laura. Particularly the grilling she received about a chance remark of her father's about paramilitary that found it's way into the Belfast Newsletter. I have no idea what relevance grilling her about her family and private life could possibly have to the drafting of legislation.

    The audio (and, hopefully, soon, transcript) speak for themselves in this respect.

    I am also dumbfounded by other facetious and inflammatory references to a "united Ireland", and the ignorance of asserting the absence of any need for evidence regarding sex work legislation.

    The assertion that disabled people are too "vulnerable" to have agency and autonomy in their sexual choices was truly disgusting and may even contravene equality legislation. The suggestion that Laura should provide sexual services to the disabled for free was astounding coming from Paul Givan who receives £40 an hour (including some of the highest expenses in the province despite being located a few minutes train ride from Belfast) for any work he does for the disabled.

    It was a disgraceful display and I feel both MLAs let down their party as well as the Stormont assembly.

    I had the feeling that Laura had only been brought in so she could be pilloried to discredit all opposition to Ruhama and the "Turn Off the Red Light" campaign who are not only detested and shunned by almost all sex workers for the past 25 years, and claiming to speak for them without consultation or mandate, but are also Southern Irish NGOs who should have no place in dictating Northern Irish legislation.

    Yours Faithfully


    All I will add is that if they had any sense they would be down on their knees thanking the heavens that they are dealing with me, and not Rose...

    She would have been on the phone in 10 minutes DEMANDING I drive her up there...


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