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Employment

Edinburgh strip club ban ‘forces sex workers into greater risk of violence’

More than 100 women could be forced into unemployment in Edinburgh after the city council chose to shut down every strip club in the city on Thursday, March 31.

More than 100 women could be forced into unemployment in Edinburgh after the city council chose to shut down every strip club in the city on Thursday, March 31.

Campaigners described the decision as a “violation of the Equality Act” for removing the livelihood of scores of sex workers during an economic crisis.

“Despite sharing their fears for their safety, for their livelihoods, sharing their expertise on their own working conditions, the council have chosen to force them into working under greater risk of violence,” a spokesperson for United Sex Workers (USW) told The Big Issue, “to further remove and limit their working rights, and push more workers into unemployment and an insufficient benefits system during an unprecedented cost of living crisis.”

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Sex-workers have long campaigned for increased rights and better working conditions to reduce the threat of work place violence.

Supporting organisations fear that the decision will leave strippers with no choice but to continue working in dangerous environments. 

During the meeting, strippers working in Edinburgh and members of the collective United Sex Workers made statements opposing the proposed policy. 

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“If a nil-cap policy is introduced I will have to travel elsewhere for work,” one said. “I would have to travel a distance from home to an unfamiliar environment. Work in a city that I don’t know, where I don’t know anyone and where I have no support network if anything went wrong.” 

Edinburgh City Council said the decision to implement the cap was done with the intention of improving women’s safety, suggesting that “sexual entertainment venues” (SEVs) contribute to the “objectification and sexualisation of women”.

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Workers in the industry however believe that the ban on venues will increase the levels of violence against them, leaving them without a legally regulated workplace. 

“We are disappointed and angry with Edinburgh Council’s decision to approve the Labour & Conservative amendment to set the number of strip clubs in the city at zero,” the USW spokesperson said. “From the outset, the workers in the clubs, whose safety and financial security this policy puts at great risk, have been ignored by the Council.”

The group will look to have the decision overturned at a judicial review, they said, accusing councillors of excluding the women affected “because they do not agree with their choice of work”.

“It will drive workers into underground and unregulated spaces, where they have no access to working rights, protections, nor the security of the clubs,” they said.

“If the Council cared about women’s safety, a safety which includes all women, they would enshrine the rights of these workers into a progressive SEV policy that ensures the safety of the workers. The Council have previously stated they wanted to work with the dancers, yet when the dancers speak, the council ignores them.” 

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