Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Sex Entertainment Venue Licensing in Bristol

This is the statement that i will be making to the council later on this evening.

We hope that they use the new licensing powers to help protect women, to take into account the gender equality impact of licensing decisions and to ensure that the rights of the women and men of Bristol, rather than business powers, are treated with respect and consideration.

After the embarrassment of giving Hooters a licence in a cumulative impact zone, because its sexist mores and degrading attitude towards women offers something 'really different to the city' we hope that the council uses this opportunity to take gender equality seriously.

Please note that the proposed licensing changes relate to sex entertainment venues, such as lap dancing clubs, not sex shops. Just because it needs to be clear that this is about taking a stand against businesses that treat women as only and always sex objects, not businesses that sell frilly pants!

So here we go:

Bristol Feminist Network, on behalf of the women of Bristol would like to thank Bristol City Council for the hard work undertaken so far in developing its sex entertainment venue policy. The consultation period is drawing to a close and the Council will be considering the final draft of the policy at the December Full Council meeting.

We trust that the Council will take on board the views on the policy and on the standard conditions that have been submitted from those concerned with the safety and wellbeing of women and girls and that any final policy will:

- Redress the current imbalance of power between lap dancing club owners and local authorities
- Reinstate local democracy
- Help to improve conditions and safety for lap dancing club performers
- and will uphold legal obligations to promote gender equality

We would also like to draw attention to the strength of the responses of several other authorities and we hope that Bristol does not allow itself to fall behind in implementing innovative policies which hold real hope for improvements in the treatment of women and girls, and would promote wider beneficial effects on social order in Bristol. London is proud to report that eight of its boroughs, including Hackney and Islington, have proposed to put a nil cap on licensing for sex entertainment venues, to end what one councillor has called 'endless sleaze swamping our communities' (Paul Smith http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-11733974).

These councils are led by Conservatives, by Lib Dems, by Labour. This is not an issue that has split parties. This is an issue that has brought men and women from all over the political spectrum together to fight a culture that demeans and degrades women.

Peter Stringfellow has called the proposed nil cap an assault on his human rights to treat women as disposable objects that can be valued in pounds and pence. But, in fact, the opposite is true. The adoption of the nil cap shows that councils from across parties respect women’s human rights. The right to not suffer sexual assault and sexual harassment in the work place, as 100% of sex entertainment venue workers in Vancouver reported. The right for women to not suffer sexual harassment and assault as they walk past sex entertainment venues, as research by Eaves has shown. The right to be viewed in society as full human beings, as full agents in the world, rather than as only and always sex objects.

We hope that Bristol City Council will follow the example of their London colleagues.

We ask that the Council does not miss this opportunity to use the new licensing powers effectively, and that the concerns of local people and issues related to social justice and equality can finally be put at the very heart of the licensing process.

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