Sex Entertainment Venues on the backfoot
For the last 5 years I have attended the licensing committee of Calderdale to support the local Women’s Centre’s objections and to raise my own objections to the existence of the local lap dancing club. 30 Years ago I ran a creche for local women’s children while they went and protested successfully at a local pub that had strippers, but now the work is to close down so called “Sex entertainment venues”. My issue is the objectification of women and the feeling of entitlement to women’s bodies that occurs as a result, . There are legal compliance issues at stake too.
In March 2019 the UN concluded its observations on the UK’s compliance with the legally binding, international CEDAW Convention, and made the following recommendation about this ‘principal area of concern’:
“Take effective measures to reduce demand for commercial sex, including by carrying out education and awareness-raising measures targeted at men and boys and focused on combating all notions of subordination and objectification of women.[United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Concluding observations on the eighth periodic report of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, CEDAW/C/GBR/CO/8, 35(b)]
Lap Dancing Clubs by their very nature (promoting and selling sexual encounters) directly support and promote attitudes which constitute and foster discriminatory behaviour by men and boys towards women and girls – the major causes of male violence against women and girls.
The licensed availability of sex for sale on the high street encourages men with sexist views to think that their views are ’normal’, acceptable and shared by others. These premises are not simply ‘oases of sexism’ bad as that is, but they foster the sexism and culture of violence and entitlement (from unequal pay to domestic abuse) present in the everyday lives of men who have developed harmful attitudes, that all public bodies with responsibility for the public health of their citizens are directly tasked with preventing and eliminating.
In January 2021 Blackpool has set a zero limit on Lap Dancing Clubs. Licensing chiefs say the move better reflects Blackpool’s aim to be a family resort, and the council’s support of the White Ribbon campaign to reduce violence towards women.
There were believed to be around 13 lap dancing venues operating in Blackpool in the mid-2000s, but the numbers have steadily reduced.
The council’s licensing chairman Coun Adrian Hutton said: “We are a family town and some of the things that have gone on are not according to the rules.
“There have been complaints from members of the public which we have had to deal with.
“A lot of thought has gone into this to come up with a policy which helps the town.”
Members of the council’s licensing committee are being asked to agree to reduce the number of permitted sex shops from the current two, down to one.
A council report adds as “a White Ribbon accredited authority, Blackpool Council is working towards setting a zero limit on the number of sexual entertainment venues (lap dancing clubs).
“Previously the number of sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) was set as four. Working towards the White Ribbon aims, it is proposed that the number of SEVs be reduced to zero with an exception being made for those four premises currently licensed.”
Clubs are currently closed under Covid restrictions, but once they reopen, they would be re-licensed providing they comply with legislation and licence conditions.
However once a licence lapses, is revoked, surrendered, or otherwise not renewed, the grandfather rights would be lost.
New applications would still be considered but with the zero policy in place, it would be much more difficult to have a licence granted.
Other changes within the revised policy include tighter controls over how dances are paid for, and a ban on dancers taking mobile phones into performance areas.
Bristol too has been reconsidering its policy and its meeting on March 8th 2021 is set to approve a new policy. The report to council notes that Sheffield City Council has been subject to two judicial reviews around SEVs, one of which found its policy “failed to have due regard to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, advance equality and foster good relations”.
A report to Bristol City Council says the council faces a “significant risk of challenge if the proposed policy approach does not sufficiently address this duty”.
Its draft policy is based on a new equalities impact assessment report which says: “There has been some research into the lap-dancing industry and the potential links between these venues and sexual violence.”
“Other research has concluded that lap-dancing clubs normalise the sexual objectification of women, have a negative impact on women’s safety in the local vicinity and may attract and generate prostitution.
“There is evidence that the sexual objectification of women is linked to sexual violence perpetration in combination with alcohol use
“There is also evidence in young people of a direct relationship between the sexual objectification of girls and aggression towards them.”
For more information go to NotBuyingit.org.uk and WhiteRibbon.org.uk