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‘Vulnerable’ women should be helped to leave lap-dancing industry

Camden Council will not allow any more strip clubs to open but existing venues can keep renewing licences

18 April, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Camden’s licensing committee

CAMPAIGNERS who want lap-dancing clubs to be stopped from operating across Camden told the Town Hall last night (Wednesday) that it should set up support services to help performers leave the industry.

The Women’s Equality Party and the campaign group Not Buying It are objecting to the renewal of every sexual entertainment licence in the borough in a determined attempt to change council policy. They claim the council’s equalities ambitions are being broken by allowing a “degrading” form of entertainment to continue.

While Camden has a bar on any new strip club opening, the existing nine venues are allowed to apply for renewals each year. None has failed to secure one.

The council has now drafted a new licensing policy explaining how it will deal with licensing cases but, to the ire of the protest groups, has allowed the clubs to keep on applying for renewals. One by one, the existing clubs have told the council of how they care for their performers and do not tolerate bad behaviour.

Performers, meanwhile, have given anonymised testimonies about how well they are treated and their love for their jobs. And councillors have reiterated that they cannot halt a legal business on the grounds of taste.

But campaigners insist that the council should change tack.

Emma Ko, from the Women’s Equality Party, said: “Ideally, we wouldn’t have any of these clubs, but at the same time we are really conscious of not wanting to put women out of jobs. What we would like to do is work with Camden Council and talk to women’s organisations who have helped women exiting these industries with counselling and training op­portunities. We are talking about apprenticeships, so there is a viable option.”

She added: “Having women with an income, and then not having an income is not desirable either. We don’t want that, but I have to tell you I went from someone who was a little unsure about some of this because I didn’t want to be a middle-class women telling other women what to do and how to do their job. But I have now met people who have worked in this industry and it’s not what you think: it’s full of vulnerable women. If they were wonderful, wonderful places where they were truly empowered, then great – but they’re not.”

The licensing committee agreed to put the policy out to consultation, with the exception of cabinet councillor Angela Mason who abstained.

Several councillors on the committee said they had not been consulted on what should have gone into the draft of the new policy but cabinet councillor Richard Olszewski said it should be treated as a document that could still change after the consultation survey.

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