Edinburgh strip club ban: Sex workers' human rights violated by strip club ban, court told

Lawyers representing strippers told at judicial review how the strip club ban will see them struggle to pay rent if they are forced out of work at the venues.
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Strippers’ human rights would be violated by the capital’s strip club ban, a court has heard.

A union representing exotic dancers and the clubs set to be banned made their cases at a hearing on Thursday against the City of Edinburgh Council's decision to cap the number of sexual entertainment venues at zero. The court heard the women were being discriminated against by the closure of their workplaces, set to take place in April next year.

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Lord Richardson heard that the policy would impede their human rights and that dancers told how the ban would see them struggle to pay their rents, push them into debt, and break up with their partners because they have to move city to work. The United Sex Workers (USW) union claims a ban would interfere with dancers rights to respect for a private and family life under the European Convention of Human Rights.

Sex workers told of how the ban would cause hardshipSex workers told of how the ban would cause hardship
Sex workers told of how the ban would cause hardship

David Welsh on behalf of the United Sex Workers union (USW) said: "If you want to stay in Edinburgh, you have to do another job. If you want to do the the job you have chosen to do, and works for your lifestyle and circumstances, you have to work somewhere else."

Talking to the Evening News, dancer Sarah said: “We feel the council has pushed ahead with this policy with blinkers on. Despite everything they were told about the devastating impact it would have on us and our livelihoods. Now we have the chance to be heard in Court. I need this job to support my family. To be told by someone on their moral high horse that I can’t do it any more in the city I live in is frankly insulting. We are hopeful that the right decision will be made to protect our jobs because the cost of living crisis is real and this hanging over our heads has already created so much stress and worry for us.”

Edinburgh Council had opposed the application and tried to block sex workers from the hearing by asking the court not to allow the union to take part. But a Judge ruled on Wednesday (September 21) that the USW could take part.

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Both Aidan O'Neill KC, representing clubs including Burke and Hare and Diamond Dolls, and Mr Welsh highlighted previous cases as part of their arguments against the policy. The two-day hearing continues on Friday, when Christine O'Neill is expected to put the arguments of the capital's city council to the court. Earlier this year, United Sex Workers USW raised cash to fund the judicial review against the decision made by councillors in March, amid warnings from Union and Green councillor Susan Rae that the move would force women into more dangerous working conditions, such as unregulated events.

The decision, made by the city's regulatory committee on March 31, was a knife-edge five to four vote in favour of setting the cap at zero. Councillors had the option of setting the cap at four, keeping all the clubs open, but this was rejected.