Green party

South East MEP supports calls for new licensing of lapdance clubs

5 June 2008

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.

She said:

"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.