Bristol City Council rejects motion to ban strip clubs

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Xotic dancers in Bristol are celebrating today after the council rejected a motion to ban strip clubs and other sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) in the city.

A consortium of women’s rights organizations and community groups is campaigning in Bristol to follow in Edinburgh’s footsteps and impose a total ban.

Bristol currently has three strip clubs in the city centre, although it currently only has two – Urban Tiger and Central Chambers.

Emotions ran high at a meeting of the council’s licensing committee on Thursday, where dozens of people from both sides of the debate expressed their views.

Tuesday’s vote was the culmination of a three-year review, and two public consultations – one in 2019 and one in 2021 – which between them received more than 17,000 submissions.

Katie Taylor, director of Bristol Women’s Voice, argued that strip clubs and similar venues act as a “gateway to further sectors of the sex industry, including prostitution”.

They can also be a gateway for men to buy sex, he said, adding: “Research shows that men who buy sex are more likely to have negative attitudes towards women and to have more sexual and domestic More likely to commit violence.”

A representative of a trust set up in memory of Holly Gazzard, a hairdresser who was stabbed to death by her former partner while working in 2014, said strip clubs “promote sexist attitudes that are tragically can lead to consequences”.

Elsewhere, human resources expert Claire Meraz called for dancers to find support in other industries, calling sex work exploitative and unsafe.

“There are a wide range of job vacancies across the city, including council roles that offer a safe range of benefits, including in areas where women are currently under-represented,” she said.

But one dancer said she started working at a strip club when she was unable to fulfill her work as a circus performer.

She said, “Stripping has allowed me to have a flexible enough schedule to pursue my dream career while also enabling me to live a comfortable life – living paycheck to paycheck. Not being constantly stressed because of the reason,” she said.

Another actor, who gave her name only as Scarlett, said she suffered from chronic pain and fatigue, but stripping has given her a future.

“I never saw a future for myself that didn’t end in poverty, hospitalization, or suicide, because I never imagined that I could live in a world that was neurotypical, mentally healthy. , made for strong-bodied people,” she said.

“Working in strip clubs has made me realize that I have the means to survive, and not just survive, but to give myself stability and opportunities for the future.”

Ultimately, the council’s licensing committee voted nine to one to retain the current limit of three licensed SEVs.

Various councilors remarked that it was better for dancers to have well-regulated licensed venues rather than forcing strip clubs underground.

Several also noted that there is little empirical evidence linking sexual entertainment venues to violence against women and girls.

Green Party councilor Guy Poultney drew applause when he accused women’s rights groups of arguing that “we should reduce the voices of some women to empower them and their choices in the name of equality.” can be restricted and their jobs taken away. Good”.

She added that they are acting as if some women cannot be trusted to make choices for themselves.

Dancers have faced an incredible amount of stress over the past two years, not only defending their work rights but their humanity.

A loud cheer followed the motion to retain the existing limit, several dancers in the public gallery shedding tears of relief.

After the vote, the Bristol Sex Workers Collective said in a statement that its members were “screaming, crying, cheering”.

“Our members are organizing against poor working conditions, COVID-19 poverty, and a hostile system that has set us up to fail,” the group said.

“Defending our right to safe working conditions shouldn’t be this difficult for a group of workers.”

It added: “Dancers have faced incredible stress over the past two years, not only defending their rights to work but their humanity.

“They had to listen when they were accused of gender-based violence. Their experiences were dismissed as sex industry lobbying.

“We hope that going forward Bristol Council will take this into account, and work with workers to develop an SEVs licensing policy that supports their rights, rather than hindering them. F* ****** Up to the workers.

Bristol Women’s Voice tweeted: “We are disappointed by the council’s decision today to continue licensing SEVs.

“We will continue to raise our voices to help end all forms of male violence and harassment of women and girls.”