Sex workers in the capital have hit out at the city council’s decision to impose a ‘blanket ban’ on strip clubs – claiming the move will drive workers “underground”.
Edinburgh councilors voted to impose a “nil cap” policy for sex entertainment venues, such as lap-dancing bars, despite pleas from pro-sex work unions and lapdancers.
The cap effectively functions as an outright ban on adult venues in the capital, including existing venues in the city, which could put an end to its infamous Pubic Triangle.
Councilors agreed to impose the de facto ban after women’s groups claimed sex entertainment venues were breeding grounds for violence and toxic attitudes towards women.
But United Sex Workers, a trade union representing adult entertainment performers, has accused the council of “dictat[ing] what work women can and cannot do.”
In a statement, the organization said: “It is the council’s duty to preserve public safety, not to force over 100 workers into spaces where they will be at a greater risk of violence, simply because they do not agree with their choice of work.
“This decision…will drive workers into underground and unregulated spaces, where they have no access to working rights, protections, nor the security of the clubs.”
The council’s regulatory committee heard deputations from those who supported a blanket ban and those who supported a managed scheme of responsible sex work employers.
Tess Herman, of United Sex Workers, told councilors there was a “unique opportunity” to ensure sex workers were given proper employment rights in Edinburgh.
“We want to support our members here but obviously we can’t do that if strippers are criminalized and pushed underground,” she said.
“We’re not saying at all there’s no workplace exploitation or poor work conditions in the industry…but a nil cap will not address any of those [issues] because clubs would have to operate outside of the legal framework.”
Heather Thomson, of the Women’s Support Project, said: “Sexual entertainment venues promote the sexual objectification of women and girls and they create the conditions which allow the attitudes and beliefs that lead to domestic abuse, rape and murder to flourish.”
SNP committee agreeer Cathy Fullerton sought to introduce a cap of four – allowing the existing venues to continue operating – but Labor depute Lord Provost Joan Griffiths moved to impose the blanket ban.
Cllr Fullerton said: “I’m really disappointed in this amendment.
“I don’t think we’ll be protecting women at all [with the nil cap].
“By doing this we could bring about abject poverty for those women who no longer have a place to work.”
The bid to keep the Pubic Triangle was defeated by five votes to four.
Danielle Worden, of the United Sex Workers, said the union would aim to overturn the ban by judicial review.
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