- Caroline Lucas MEP asks for EU ruling on whether current licensing
contravenes gender equality laws in the workplace
Lapdance clubs should be reclassified as Sex Encounter Establishments to
give local authorities more power to better protect the women that work in
them, and to protect those who live or work nearby, said the South East’s
Green MEP today.
Under current planning law, lapdance clubs are dealt with in the same
category as coffee shops under what is called a Premises Licence. This means
that the authorities must regard them as equal in nature to coffee shops,
pubs or karaoke bars, and thus can do little to regulate them or provide
worker protection which addresses the specific conditions of the workplace.
In a letter to the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and
Gender Equality, Dr Caroline Lucas highlighted the campaign by the Fawcett
Society to reform the licensing laws and asked for its view on how the
current law complies with EU directives on sex discrimination at work.
“With over 300 lapdance clubs already operating in the UK under little
regulation, we must seek to protect those women who work in them, given the
increased risks they face in such a sexualised workplace.
“It is absurd that an establishment which makes its income from the sexual
objectification of women, in an adult entertainment industry which
commercialises female sexuality – usually for male profit – can be
established in any town or city in the same way as a coffee shop, with no
additional provisions for worker safety.
“By renaming lapdance clubs as Sex Encounter Establishments and so
regulating them under the Local Government Act 1982 alongside sex shops and
sex cinemas, the UK government would effectively give more power to local
authorities and communities to apply crucial conditions and make important
decisions on, for example, how many lapdance clubs should be allowed in the
area, the presence of ‘private booths’, and the required distance between
performers and customers.
“Current practice also fails to protect those who pass through areas
surrounding the clubs. People who live within 100-200m of a proposed
lapdance club are permitted to raise objections, but as the Fawcett Society
points out, this ignores the impact on women who work in or travel through
the area. Research in the UK has found that areas around lapdance clubs can
become ‘no-go’ areas for women, and the clubs themselves can become centres
of criminal activity which could put the female workers at risk.
Dr Lucas continued: “The EU is founded on a number of key values which must
be taken seriously by all Member states – one of which is gender equality in
the workplace. I struggle to see how we have any chance of achieving
equality between the sexes when such establishments are left unchecked.”
If you share widespread concerns about the proliferation of lapdance clubs
in the UK and agree that they should be licensed as Sex Encounter
Establishments, you can petition the Prime Minister before 17th July 2008.
To show your support for the campaign in the UK, write to your MP before
18th June asking them to support EDM 1375 and Roberta Blackman Woods' 10
Minute Rule Bill calling for licensing reforms. You can download a draft
letter from the Fawcett Society website.
To find out who your MP is visit www.theyworkforyou.com.