Sex workers are preparing to launch a judicial review against Edinburgh council after it voted to ban strip clubs in the capital.
United Sex Workers (USW) has launched a fundraising drive two months after the union vowed to take on the authority after it became the first in Scotland to get rid of the clubs.
Members of the City of Edinburgh Council’s regulatory committee opted to ban the bars by a majority of five to four on March 31, despite the pleas of dancers who urged them to keep them open.
The committee had an option to put a cap on the number of strip clubs in the city at four, the current number, but decided to set it at zero, a move which will see them shut down on April 1 next year.
The nil-cap policy will also forbid new clubs to open, with strippers, bar workers and security staff now fearing for their jobs.
The union branded the policy as “plainly unlawful as they discriminate against women and other marginalised groups, such as people with disabilities and migrants, who make up the majority of strippers”.
USW said the voices of workers had been “completely ignored” and the ban left “hundreds of precarious workers unemployed during a time of unprecedented financial insecurity and rising living costs”.
The fundraising drive, which has collected more than £3,000 so far, is aiming to collect £20,000 to bankroll the legal action with money left over earmarked towards potential action in Bristol and to support workers.
In the March meeting one performer, who gave her name as Alexis, told the committee she was proud of her job and did not want to find another job just because being a performer did not fit into its members’ moral values.
“(We are) educated women making educated decisions about what’s best for our lives,” she told them.
Concerns were raised that the ban would push women into prostitution and see stripping pushed underground, making it less safe for women.
The meeting heard from both sides of the debate, with some speaking in favour of banning the establishments.
Cameron Rose, who was a councillor at the time, said it was proportionate to set the limit at zero.
Mr Rose told the committee the Scottish Government’s policy of preventing violence against women and girls gave a national definition which included commercial sexual exploitation, defined as lap and pole-dancing as well as stripping.
“It’s inconceivable to me to profess support for this policy and hold it compatible with having whatever number of sexual entertainment venues,” he said.
But councillor Susan Rae said: “It isn’t our place to tell women what they can and cannot do and where they can and cannot work.”
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