Edinburgh strip clubs: Sex workers threaten legal fight to save venues

A union representing Edinburgh's sex workers has said plans which could see the Capital’s strip clubs shut would discriminate against women.

By Euan McGrory
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 7:52 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 2:54 pm
A union representing Edinburgh's sex workers has said plans which could see the capital's strip clubs shut would discriminate against women. Picture: Lisa Ferguson




'Not Equal Not Safe' Vigil at the Scottish Parliament



Wednesday November 25th is International Day to End Violence Against Women. Join Scot-Pep at the Scottish Parliament at 4pm to hold a socially-distanced vigil.

We want to tell MSPs that the criminalisation of sex work fuels violence against women who sell sex.



Scottish Government policy means that sex workers are #NotEqualNotSafe, and proposals to introduce the criminalisation of clients will only worsen sex workers’ vulnerability to violence and harm. No woman is safe until sex workers are safe. Decriminalisation now.
A union representing Edinburgh's sex workers has said plans which could see the capital's strip clubs shut would discriminate against women. Picture: Lisa Ferguson 'Not Equal Not Safe' Vigil at the Scottish Parliament Wednesday November 25th is International Day to End Violence Against Women. Join Scot-Pep at the Scottish Parliament at 4pm to hold a socially-distanced vigil. We want to tell MSPs that the criminalisation of sex work fuels violence against women who sell sex. Scottish Government policy means that sex workers are #NotEqualNotSafe, and proposals to introduce the criminalisation of clients will only worsen sex workers’ vulnerability to violence and harm. No woman is safe until sex workers are safe. Decriminalisation now.

A union representing Edinburgh's sex workers has said plans which could see the capital's strip clubs shut would discriminate against women.

Members of United Sex Workers are fighting against the City of Edinburgh Council's plans which could see a cap on the number of establishments, with the union fearing job losses and closures if they are banned.

On Thursday, members of the capital's regulatory committee are set to vote on how many clubs will be allowed in the city, but Danielle Worden, legal caseworker for the union, warned the authority if it sets the limit at zero, it would launch a judicial review.

"A policy on banning strip clubs would cause particular disadvantage to women by removing the livelihood of hundreds of female workers," she said, and added it would constitute "indirect gender discrimination contrary to the Equality Act".

"Such discrimination can only be justified if proportionate, connected to a legitimate aim and based on evidence.

"The only aim cited by nil-cap supporters is reducing violence against women and girls (VAWG), yet there is literally no evidence showing that the existence of strip clubs causes or correlates with VAWG."

The committee is being asked to set the limit of clubs at four or zero, and the council said that no venues should be allowed outside the city centre.

If the council decides to ban strip clubs, a report said it must "be able to demonstrate that it has weighted up the evidence before it and reached a decision that is both rational and proportionate".

The same report said that the ban would see the closure of existing venues and a loss of income for operators, performers and other employees, and it warned: "The committee will also recall hearing evidence which suggested that a zero limit could lead to SEV (Sexual Entertainment Venue) activities taking place in unregulated and unsafe environments."

And ahead of the city council's meeting, Tess Hermann, a stripper and USW branch organiser, said it was "exhausting that we are expected to justify our right to work to the people who are supposed to represent us".

"As organisers, we want to fight for better working conditions, better pay and labour protections, but we can only do that if our workplaces are not constantly at risk of being shut down by our councils," she said.

If the council bans clubs or sets a limit on the number it must give at least one year's warning, the council report said.

Last year a public consultation found 44.5% agreed or strongly agreed that there should be a limit on the number of clubs in the city, while 37% agreed or strongly agreed there should be no limit.

When asked what the limit should be, 20% said there should be no clubs, while 40% said there should be no limit.

Councillor Catherine Fullerton, the regulatory convener at the authority, said: "We've consulted extensively on the way forward on this issue with two public consultations and committee also held three evidence sessions with interested parties including owners and performers of the venues.

"A decision will be taken at committee on Thursday on the future licensing policy for sexual entertainment venues. It wouldn't be appropriate to comment further at this stage."