United Sex Workers (USW) is trying to raise £20,000 to fund a judicial review of Edinburgh City Council’s strip club ban. A successful judicial review could mean an end to strip club bans across England, Scotland & Wales and give strippers a chance to collectively organise without worrying about their workplaces being shut down.
At the end of March 2022, Edinburgh City Council voted to impose a ‘nil cap’ on licences for sexual entertainment venues (SEVs). This decision will effectively shut down all strip clubs in the city by April 2023 and forbid any new ones from opening.
Audrey, an organiser for USW, said: “Nil-cap policies succeed at nothing other than putting sex workers’ lives at risk. By removing workers’ livelihoods during an unprecedented cost of living crisis, local councils are forcing us to make the unenviable choice between poverty or more dangerous, underground sex work. Strip club workers deserve safety, to access the same rights & protections as any other worker – and the success of this challenge could create a legal precedent for that. It’s why it is so vital we raise this money, it’s not to just save over a hundred worker’s jobs, but to ensure thousands of workers’ rights.”
In practice, this means that strippers (alongside bar and security staff) will lose their jobs, with no alternative venues available for them to find work. Stripping is already a precarious job, and due to the stigmatised nature of the work, it can be hard for dancers to find other forms of employment.
Annie F, a stripper in Edinburgh impacted by the ban and USW member, said: “I am a single mother to a three-year-old. I have no family to help with childcare, and my daughter is only entitled to free childcare for six hours a day, four days a week. This prevents me from working in most jobs. If I cannot work as a stripper, I will be unable to pay my bills, and we will be pushed into poverty.”
Strip club bans violate workers’ rights at a time of severe economic crisis. They form part of a wider attempt by the state to oppress precarious workers and dictate what people can do with their bodies.
Danielle Worden, legal caseworker for United Voices of the World, said: “The success of this legal challenge is not only essential to save the jobs of hundreds of workers in Edinburgh, but also to send a clear message to other councils that ‘nil-caps’ are unlawful. Otherwise, the existence of the stripping industry is at stake, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of workers. This challenge is not just about sex workers rights – it’s also about bodily autonomy and fighting the state’s broader aim to oppress precarious workers to force them into the minimum wage jobs which the capitalist system depends on.”
There is huge potential for this campaign to move forward sex workers’ rights, and to demonstrate that strippers—and other sex workers—are workers, who deserve the right to work safety.
Photo by Mina Karenina (USW)