Victory as Parliament takes a stand against sexual exploitation in lap dancing and prostitution.
Equality campaigners announce two major victories in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation as Parliament passes the Policing and Crime Bill (1).
In a move that has been described as one of the most profound changes in our law in recent years (MP), Clause 13 (formerly 14) of the Bill puts the rights of exploited women over those of punters and pimps by focusing the gaze of the criminal law on the men who perpetuate commercial sexual exploitation by choosing to buy women, children and men for sex. Clause 13 makes it an offence to pay for sexualservices from someone who has been subjected to force.
This is a huge achievement for the Demand change! Campaign (2) led by OBJECT (3) and Eaves (4) and for the 67 women’s and human rights organisations (5) which supported this Bill and which campaigned tirelessly to obtain justice for the women, children and men who have for so long been exploited by the sex industry. Many of these organisations attended the successful Demand Change! Mass rally in Parliament Square just before the vote in the Lords calling on Peers to ‘Vote for Women, not Pimps and Punters!’(6)
In another triumph against sexism, the passing of the Policing and Crime Bill also marks the success of the campaign by OBJECT and the Fawcett Society (7) to regulate lap dancing clubs as part of the sex industry, not the leisure industry. Lap dancing clubs clearly have more in common with sex shops and sex cinemas than they do with a restaurants and bars. Clause 26 (formerly 27) of the Bill is therefore crucial to allow local councils to apply more stringent regulations on lap dancing clubs to protect the rights of women in the clubs and to give local people the right to object to a lap dancing club opening in their midst.
Crucially, in the later stages of the Bill the Government responded to widespread concerns felt across Parliament and backed by several prominent women’s and human rights organisations (8) that the optional nature of the new licensing regime would lead to a postcode lottery. In response to these concerns, a new statutory duty has been introduced requiring Local Authorities to consult locally if they have not adopted the new powers within a year. OBJECT and the Fawcett Society will continue to work with local authorities and local people to ensure that gender equality issues are at the heart of the licensing process and that communities are no longer powerless to resist the spread of commercialised sexism on their high streets.
Sasha Rakoff, Director of OBJECT:
‘These provisions in the Policing and Crime Bill mark a major victory in the fight against the dehumanisation of women in the sex industry. The mainstreaming and glamourisation of lap dancing and prostitution promote sexist stereotypes of women as objects, and not real people. It is a no brainer that purchasing a woman who has been exploited should be illegal, and that lap dancing clubs should be regulated as part of the sex industry and we are delighted that Parliament has prioritised the voices of those who have been exploited and who care about equality above the voices of profit and sexual entitlement. Today’s victory in Parliament shows that treating women like sexual objects is not inevitable or unstoppable and that it has no place in the twenty first century.’
Denise Marshall, Chief Executive of Eaves:
“This is fantastic news. Legislation to make it an offence to pay for sex with someone subject to force, who has been exploited, is a no-brainer. It should clearly be illegal. I am delighted for the women whom we support, who have a right to live without fear of force, violence or exploitation, and for whom this law is crucial”
Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society commented on the reforms to lap dancing club licensing:
“Today is a victory for common sense, and is the culmination of an astonishing 18 month campaign by equality campaigners, parliamentarians, local authorities and local residents – all of whom came together to question the unchecked growth of the lap dancing industry – which had doubled in size in just four years.
“Buying a cappuccino is clearly fundamentally different from buying a lap dance from a woman – yet until now the two practices have been licensed in exactly the same way. This legislation recognises that lap dancing clubs are part of the sex industry, and now women’s rights to equality, dignity and safety can be properly considered when licensing lap dancing clubs.”
Notes for editors
(2) The Demand Change! Campaign calls for the Government to introduce a human rights based approach to prostitution by decriminalising the selling of sex and offering support to these currently in prostitution to help them exit, whilst at the same time criminalising the purchase of sex to tackle demand for commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.
(3) OBJECT is the leading human rights organisation which challenges the sexual objectification of women in the media and popular culture because of its links to discrimination and violence against women. OBJECT have been working specifically on the clauses around prostitution and lap dancing. www.object.org.uk
(4) Eaves provides high quality housing and support to vulnerable women including those who have been exploited through prostitution. It also carries out research, advocacy and campaigning to prevent all forms of violence against women. Eaves have been working specifically on the clause around prostitution. www.eaves4women.co.uk
(6) For photos of the protest http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/objectactivist/DemandChangeClause14Stunt?feat=directlink#
(7) The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading campaign for women’s rights. The Fawcett Society have been working specifically on the clause around lap dancing. www.fawcettsociety.org.uk
(8) The Equality and Human Rights Commission, Equality Now, OBJECT, The Fawcett Society, YWCA, Eaves, Rights of Women, Safe Exit Toynbee Hall, WOMANKIND Worldwide, White Ribbon Campaign, NUS Women’s Campaign.