Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Northern Ireland - We've only just begun.


I'm not going to lie, the last week has been a challenge, and by "challenge" I mean I felt like I was locked into one of those real life horror houses with blood drenched actors. Monday 20th saw a vote in the Northern Irish Assembly in favour of Lord Morrow's human trafficking bill, clause 6 of which effectively imposes the Swedish model, making it illegal to pay for sex.

In real terms what it means is this - the Justice Committee ignored the evidence of the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS, respected publication The Lancet to name but a few, all of whom are in favour of decriminalisation, because it has been shown that further criminalisation does nothing but further harm those most at risk in the industry. But worse than that, they ignored the voices of those of us at the centre of the debate, sex workers. The Department of Justice commissioned research found that a staggering 98% of sex workers did not want this law, and that's not just in reference to internet savvy "happy hookers". The researchers interviewed those who had really suffered as a result of the industry, and STILL, they said no to further criminalisation.

In itself, ignoring sex workers is bad enough, but Paul Givan and Jim Wells took that one step further. As head of the Justice Committee, (he has since lost that role), Givan felt it was appropriate to quiz me about my personal sex life, my relationship with my dad and he also alleged that I target vulnerable disabled men. In a final act of arrogance, he said that "some of us don't need any evidence". When the head of a Justice Committee says that, it's time to become terrified. His colleague Jim Wells was equally horrid, as far as he's concerned there can be only vulnerable victims or members of the pimp lobby. No such thing as a sex worker who works independently to support her family and happens to care for the welfare of other sex workers then ? Don't be silly. That Jim Wells has now been appointed as Minister for Health in NI is just depressing, he as shown complete contempt for women over and over again, together with just about every minority group you can think of.

So who in their right minds said yes to a model proven to harm ? Well, CARE had a lot of influence here, as a fundamentalist Christian group they pledged to set up sheltered housing to save "fallen women" in case we become, and I quote, "drug dealers". I'm not sure if the model of locking up "problematic" women whilst enjoying massive government funding is ringing any bells with you, but it sure is with me. I'm terrified that this will be the outcome. All through the process, I appealed to Lord Morrow's good sense. Sure, he can refer to himself as the "hand of Wilberforce", but for me, it takes a very brave man to stand up against the puritans and say - "Erm, trafficking is already an offence. Rape is already an offence. The PSNI don't want this law, the Minister for Justice doesn't want this law, and crucially; sex workers don't want this law, so why are we even looking at this ?" That is exactly the stance that Basil McCrea and several other MLA's took and they will forever have the admiration of all of us who worked so hard to have the law stopped. Quite why the UUP and Sinn Fein did a last minute about turn, I'll never know, but I was bitterly disappointed and angered by their stance.

So what now ? Now we're faced with a situation where sex workers are afraid to liaise with the police, afraid to take on new clients who may or may not be testing the waters, and this in spite of the fact that the bill won't actually become law until Spring. Amusingly, there was a last minute amendment tabled which decriminalised the women working on the street, I guess this is the carrot they feel they can dangle. The reality is this, we are still not decriminalised in that we cannot work together for safety, so any chest beating they are doing around that safety element is, I'm afraid, complete crap. No, their idea is to force women out of shared apartments where they work in safety and on to the streets. Why ? So they can be rescued, by the rescue industry with their funding applications at the ready. That's why. "Put them where we can see them, that boosts our figures and justifies more funding". The reality is that if two women work together for safety in an apartment in Northern Ireland, they are both deemed "victims", but can BOTH be convicted of "pimping" from each other. So we are compelled to work alone, and in danger since 81 MLA's made it abundantly plain that they couldn't care less what happens to us.

And that, I'm afraid, is what it really has come down to. Sex workers in Northern Ireland are seen as no more than a tool to elevate political status and line the pockets of those already profiting from doing very little for the very desperate.

Though these are sad and frightening times, we can't give up campaigning for real decriminalisation, and for good policing practices. Whilst Ruhama and Turn off the Red Light continue to pocket hundreds of thousands of tax payers money obtained through lies, and whilst sex workers struggle to feed their children in a recession, there's work to be done.

LL xx

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Press release 19/10/2014


PRESS RELEASE

Tomorrow (Monday 20th October) the Northern Ireland Assembly will vote on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill. Clause 6 will criminalise the purchase of sex, between consenting adults.

This Bill has been put forward by the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) backed by the fundamentalist religious organisation CARE (Christian Action Research and Education). CARE's solution is to "rescue" sex workers (heavily funded by the government) and lock them away in secure housing in case we become "drug dealers". Is that 'solution' not ringing any bells ? Women’s Aid have also given their wholehearted support to this Bill. Women’s Aid claim to represent ‘women’ but like the nuns in the Magdalene laundries before them they are putting their brutal ideology and financial interest over those of us in the sex industry who choose what we do. Women’s Aid have never engaged with sex workers nor have they shown any inclination to do so. Our views and opinions are aren’t worth a grain of salt to them. Women’s Aid need to remember that it was the issue of ‘choice’ that defined the feminist movement and by aligning with the DUP on this issue they have set the feminist cause in NI back decades. Will Women’s Aid now be joining the DUP to have the Marie Stopes clinic shut down? And this is choice ?

Sinn Féin, the second largest political party recognises that this Bill is flawed insofar as it is based on ideology not evidence and will lead to an increase in risks and dangers to sex workers. But Sinn Féin MLAs haven’t held firm to what they know to be true and are unlikely to oppose it. Thus it will pass.

The Department of Justice published independent research into prostitution in Northern Ireland on Friday 17th October clearly showing that criminalising the purchase of sex will not achieve the stated aims but will harm sex workers. Crucially, this research took the views and opinions of sex workers into account, a first for NI. However, Northern Ireland’s politicians are ignoring the evidence and throwing sex workers under the bus. Will sex workers in NI have to wait decades for an apology just as the Magdalene women did ? Or will that apology for bad law making come after the first murder, or fourth serious assault perhaps ? It remains to be seen, but they cannot for a moment pretend they didn't have the evidence available to do right by an already marginalised and stigmatised group. Sex workers will suffer, and it could have been prevented by the courageous actions of a few. Instead we have been let down by the cowardice of many.

Laura Lee
Sex Workers' Rights Activist

Protest at Stormont - Monday 20th October


STOP CRIMINALISATION: SAFETY FIRST !!

Sex workers and allies -

PROTEST AGAINST THE CRIMINALISATION OF THE PURCHASE OF SEX.

Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Monday 20 October, 4pm-5pm.


On Monday 20th October the Northern Ireland Assembly will vote on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill. This Bill includes a clause which will criminalise the purchase of sex.

This Bill has been put forward by the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) backed by CARE (Christian Action Research and Education). Sinn Féin, the second largest party, is believed to have now decided not to not oppose it. Thus it will pass.

The Department of Justice published independent research into prostitution in Northern Ireland on Friday 17th October clearly showing that criminalising the purchase of sex will not achieve the stated aims but will harm sex workers. However Northern Ireland’s politicians are ignoring the evidence and throwing sex workers under the bus.

I am calling for a protest.

Red umbrellas and sex worker rights banners are encouraged. Sex workers are highly stigmatised in Northern Ireland and thus masks are welcome. Masks will also be made available on the day.

Some of the findings of the recently published Northern Ireland research are:

Only 2% of sex workers support criminalising the purchase of sex.

Sex workers worry that criminalisation of clients will lead to a potential decrease in security, worsen working conditions and increase risks of violence and other abuse. Another common concern is that criminalisation of clients will lead to the increased involvement of organised crime groups and ‘pimps’ in the sex industry;

61% of NI-based sex workers feel criminalising the purchase of sex will make them less safe.

There is likely to be significant difficulties with enforcement of the law. PSNI officers who took part in the research noted that, in their opinion, a sex purchase ban would be difficult to enforce and would be largely ineffective in reducing the level of trafficking in sexual exploitation.

85% of sex workers believe the law will not reduce sex trafficking.

Only 8% of respondents to the client survey said it would make them stop paying for sex altogether.

Stigmatisation and the related fear of exposure constitutes a very significant issue for the sex workers who took part in the study, it ranked above all other concerns.

The full research report is available here:

http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/media-centre/independent-research-into-prostitution-in-northern-ireland-published.htm

LL xx

Monday, 6 October 2014

Ego versus evidence


As my regular readers will know, there are several things I cannot abide. Top of the list must be -

- Nuns
- Abolitionists who lie (see "Nuns")
- Bullies
- Those who spout off with no knowledge and an abundance of spite.

Meet Jeremy Wilson, who neatly ticks off the last two on my list. Recently, he wrote this piece in an attempt to undermine the credibility of Brooke Magnanti, a lady I'm sure you need no introduction to, who also happens to be a friend. Now, I know Brooke is a big girl and can look after herself, so whenever someone has a go at her in the media or on Twitter, I stop and ask, is it patronising of me to jump in ? Then I remember the number of times she has had my back and answer my own question.

The first claim made by Wilson is that Brooke may not have worked as a call girl at all. As a fellow escort I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that she did. We have discussed the industry at length and there is a code, turns of phrases and common parlance employed with a wink and nod, which leave me in no doubt. In the same way you could very quickly establish that a lawyer is not all that he claims to be if he can't answer the very basic question, "What did Fisher v Bell [1961] establish in contract law ?", then Brooke was a call girl.

Next, our intrepid investigator goes on to question if Brooke could really have earned £300 an hour. In short, of course she could. There was then, and still is, an elite set of both escorts and clients, particularly in London. Aside from his bitchy jibes about looks, Wilson misses the point in spectacular fashion. At that end of the market, clients are not just paying for beauty or indeed youth. It's a package deal, and a highly intelligent woman who can hold her own in any company or setting will always do well. Further, at that end of the market, clients are paying for discretion too, which is huge, and also the reason no client has "come forward". Gosh, does the fact that none of my clients have ever publicly identified themselves mean I don't exist ? I'm pretty sure I do, although I can think of several lying abolitionists who would wish for the opposite.

Going from ill informed to just plain stupid, Wilson continues "there are established online spaces where men anonymously recall their time with prostitutes", referring to Punternet. Whilst it's true that Punternet has been online since 1999, allow me to introduce some facts, something my new favourite blogger seems to be adverse to. "There are no reports for Taro, therefore she didn't exist !" Erm, no. It is common practice for an agency when closing to request that all of their reviews be removed, and as webmaster, being the obliging sort he is, Galahad will do it. Alpha Babes closed in 2009 (approx) and Punternet has also had several over hauls since then. Archives have been lost, meaning some reviews went too. The main point to be made here though, is that (strap yourselves in for this one) - NOT EVERY CLIENT WRITES REVIEWS, PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO PAY TOP DOLLAR. Heard of discretion at all ?

Whilst it's true that I have a lot of reviews, remember that I've been working online and in the UK since 2006, Brooke worked for 18 months, in 2003/2004, when reviews and indeed independents were less usual. Remember also, that I have openly mentioned that I have some pretty high profile clients. 95% of those have never written a review in their lives, neither do they email, to avoid a trail. They call, they book, we meet, that's it. There is no obligation on a client to write a review, and I know for a fact that were I to suggest it to some of my guys, they would never call me again.

Saving the best 'til last, the font of all knowledge goes on to say - "Brooke Magnanti has been almost solely responsible for cultivating the myth of the "happy hooker." Utter codswallop. "The Happy Hooker" was the name of a book written by Xaviera Hollander in 1971, four years before Brooke was born, so unless you can add time travel to the list of her talents ....Brooke has been very forthright in saying that as a migrant, she had very little options available to her, and she's happy with the choices she made, though the sex trade is not for everyone. It really is as simple as that. Never once has she painted a rosy picture, in fact if memory serves me correctly, when Secret Diary of a Call Girl was televised, she tweeted - "Where's the gore ? The fisting ?" As someone who has scrubbed toilets for a living, I don't think Brooke glamourises anything. What she does do, is break down the myths and statistics around sex work, and around her perceived life. Which of the two do you suppose makes Wilson more uncomfortable ? Your guess is as good as mine.

LL xx

Addendum : I incorrectly attributed the article originally. Mea culpa. Another writer at Breitbart is equally culpable in the continued sustained attacks on Brooke - Milo Yiannopoulos. Check out his article here, and his constant badgering on Twitter as @Nero.