Performers to appeal after councillors voted to ban sexual entertainment clubs in Edinburgh
A union representing exotic dancers has said it will take a local authority to court after Edinburgh’s councillors voted to ban strip clubs in the Scottish capital.
Edinburgh Council’s regulatory committee voted to ban the clubs by a majority of five to four.
One performer, who gave her name as Alexis, told the committee: “Strip clubs are not just full of pervy old men trying to feel up young women. Many of our customers just want someone to talk to.”
Alexis, who has worked as a dancer for 15 years, said she was proud of her job and did not want to find another job because being a performer did not fit into the committee’s moral values.
“(We are) educated women making educated decisions about what’s best for our lives,” she said.
The union representing exotic performers has vowed to take their fight to court in a bid to overturn the decision, and said it will request a judicial review.
Danielle Worden, legal caseworker for United Voices of the World, said: “The union is extremely disappointed that the council has chosen to disregard its legal obligations and the relevant evidence by adopting a policy that discriminates against women.
“Not only does this violate the the Equality Act 2010, it is an act of cruelty to remove the livelihoods of hundreds of workers as we enter the worst economic crisis since the 1970s.”
A performer, calling herself Margot, said after the meeting it was “extremely disappointing” that the council had “decided to overlook the safety concerns of the dancers and has instead based this decision on outdated, moralistic views”.
“Strippers are mostly women, who should also have the right to work and live free of violence,” she said.
Tess Hermann, a stripper and branch organiser of United Voices of the World, a grassroots trade union for low paid, migrant and precarious workers, said: “We are shocked by the decision of the City of Edinburgh Council today to ban strip clubs despite hearing about the consequences this would have on dancers.
“For our members in Edinburgh this means that they must decide whether they will continue to work independently at private parties and without protection, work in a different industry that does not give them the flexibility and earning potential they need or move to a different city.
“It was not merely an ideological issue; these are our livelihoods.”
During the meeting, the city council put forward a plan to limit the number of sexual entertainment clubs to either four, which is the current number of establishments in the city, or zero, which would effectively be a ban.
Councillor Cameron Rose said it was proportionate to set the limit at zero.
Mr Rose told the committee the Scottish Government’s policy of preventing violence against women and girls gave a national definition which included commercial sexual exploitation, defined as lap and pole-dancing as well as stripping.
“It’s inconceivable to me to profess support for this policy and hold it compatible with having whatever number of sexual entertainment venues,” he said.
“The clear balance comes down on the legitimate interest of women and society generally over the arguments that we have heard today from a group of women who will be economically affected in all sorts of ways, and I accept that, who are involved in what has been described as commercial exploitation,” he said.
Committee convener, Catherine Fullerton, had backed putting the maximum at four, which is the number of sexual entertainment clubs operating within Edinburgh at the moment.
She told the committee that regulation would ensure safety and added: “The consistent message from performers in this industry was closing the establishments would put them at risk.”
Councillor Susan Rae said: “It isn’t our place to tell women what they can and cannot do and where they can and cannot work.”
A City of Edinburgh Council spokesman said the ban would come into place from April 1 next year.
“It’s important to note that SEVs (sexual entertainment venues) can still apply for a licence and committee would consider them against the policy agreed today,” the spokesman said.
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