– Who does the « International Union of Sex Workers » really represent?

From the official transcript of a hearing held in Northern Ireland :


Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2013/2014

Date: Thursday, 09 January 2014


Committee for Justice


Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill: International Union of Sex Workers


The Chairperson: I welcome to the meeting Laura Lee from the International Union of Sex Workers. (…)


I want to go back to my question.  You say that you speak for the vast majority.  I am trying to quantify that.  Can you tell me how many sex workers you purport to speak for?


Ms Lee: In the UK, because it is such a clandestine industry in some regards, statistics are hard to come by, but the estimates are that there are 80,000 sex workers in the UK.  That is across the broad spectrum and includes webcam strippers etc.


The Chairperson: Are they are all members of your international union?


Ms Lee: No, they are not.


The Chairperson: So, how many members does the International Union of Sex Workers have?


Ms Lee: I am not entirely sure about that.  I would have to look that up and come back to you.


The Chairperson: It is just that you said that you speak for the vast majority.


Ms Lee: Yes.


The Chairperson: I am trying to establish the credibility of the organisation that you purport to represent.  That is important, because, obviously, we will refer to this evidence session, and we need to know that what you have said comes from a credible organisation.  So, how many members are there in the International Union of Sex Workers?


Ms Lee: I would need to check that out and come back to you.


The Chairperson: OK.  How many of them are from Northern Ireland?


Ms Lee: Good question.  I honestly do not know, but I will find out for you.


The Chairperson: OK.  So, you do not know those answers. (…)


Mr Wells: Is Laura Lee your real name?


Ms Lee: No, it is not.  It is my working name.


Mr Wells: It is a bit difficult to put a great degree of reliability on your evidence if we do not know your identity.


Ms Lee: You are welcome to my real name if you wish.


Mr Wells: Are you prepared to release that?


Ms Lee: Yes, I am.  It is Antoinette Cosgrave.


Mr Wells: OK.  Thank you for that.


Are there any pimps or those who profit from organising sexual services in your International Union of Sex Workers?


Ms Lee: Some of the members are managers, yes.


Mr Wells: So, they are pimps.


Ms Lee: Well, if you want to use that term, yes.


Mr Wells: So, it is not just a union of sex workers; it is also those who control sex workers.


Ms Lee: Yes.


Mr Wells: Who make large amounts of money and control the lives of sex workers.


Ms Lee: I cannot comment on how much money anybody else makes.


Mr Wells: Would one of those be a Mr Douglas Fox?


Ms Lee: Yes.


Mr Wells: Are you aware of Mr Douglas Fox’s operations in the north of England?


Ms Lee: I am, yes.


Mr Wells: Are you aware that he controls one of the largest escort websites in the United Kingdom?


Ms Lee: I was not aware of that, no.


Mr Wells: He said in ‘The Northern Echo’ that he and his civil partner were indeed controlling a website that sells the services of prostitutes.


Ms Lee: OK.  I was aware that Douglas’s partner is involved in the management of an escort agency, but that is about as much as I knew.


Mr Wells: Again, following up the questions of Mr Givan, I am trying to work out exactly where you are coming from.  You are from an organisation that represents the sex industry, including those, like Mr Fox, who make vast amounts of money from selling females for sexual services.


Ms Lee: Stepping aside from that, I speak more for myself as an Irish sex worker and from my own experiences.  That is what is crucial here.


Mr Wells: If one of your main supporters and funders is someone who has acknowledged that he runs a website selling sexual services, selling thousands of women every year, clearly that indicates a slightly different angle on what the International Union of Sex Workers means.


Ms Lee: I just do not see how that could undermine my personal credibility.


Mr Wells: How it would undermine it, Ms Lee — Ms Cosgrave — is that, clearly, if those who support and perhaps fund your union have an incredibly high vested interest in selling the sexual services of women, you are not a union representing the ordinary woman on the street or in the flat; you are representing an organisation that makes vast amounts of money out of the sale of women.


Ms Lee: I do not work just with the International Union of Sex Workers; I also work with SCOT-PEP in Edinburgh.  I work with a lot of people.  My aim is not to protect any financial interest at all; my aim is to save lives here.


Mr Wells: You made the extraordinary comment that you had never met a woman who had been trafficked or coerced into the sale of sexual services.


Ms Lee: Yes, that is right. (…)


Source: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Assembly-Business/Official-Report/Committee-Minutes-of-Evidence/January-2014/Human-Trafficking-and-Exploitation-Further-Provisions-and-Support-for-Victims-Bill-International-Union-of-Sex-Workers/