Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC) provides a range of free services to women and girls, men and boys aged 11 years and over who are victims/survivors of sexual violence and abuse either at present or in the past. CRASAC aims to provide support, information and advocacy to enable victims/survivors of sexual violation to recover from their trauma and regain control and choice in their lives. We provide support and information to over 3,500 victims/survivors, their family and friends and to professionals working with victims/survivors each year.
We are glad of the opportunity to provide Coventry City Council with our views and evidence in relation to ‘sexual entertainment’ venues and would intend this response to be in support of the response from Coventry Women’s Voices.
The Council have a legal obligation under the Gender Equality Duty (2007) to eliminate unlawful gender discrimination and harassment and to promote equality of opportunity between women and men.
CRASAC will show that SEV’s have a negative impact on women and girl’s experiences of discrimination at best and may increase their chance of sexual violence at worst.
The view of CRASAC is that the appropriate number of Sexual Entertainment Venues should be set at nil.
Factors the Council should take into account when considering the numbers of sexual entertainment venues
There are a number of significant factors that the council should take into account. Each of these factors relates to the legal obligation of the council under the Gender Equality Duty (2007) to eliminate unlawful gender discrimination and harassment and to promote equality of opportunity between women and men. Research evidence demonstrates that so-called ‘sexual entertainment’ venues are not sources of ‘harmless entertainment’ rather they lead to physical and psychological violence and abuse of women (Object, 2009; Raphael & Shapiro, 2004; Bindel, 2004; Holsopple, 1999). A growing body of research into the consequences of ‘sexual entertainment’ venues has linked them to:
1) Increased reports of rape and sexual assault (Eden, 2007; Raphael & Shapiro, 2004)
2) Sexual harassment of women working in the clubs from both employers and customers (Raphael & Shapiro, 2004; Bindel, 2004)
Research indicates that common complaints include: drunkenness, heckling during cabaret shows, trying to grab women, asking for sexual services, touching their own genitals (Bindel, 2004)
3) Abuse and violence against women is now defined broadly and is recognised by governments in the context of promoting human rights and eliminating discrimination in society. It is also recognised that different forms of violence and abuse perpetrated by men are linked to broader gender inequalities and men’s abuse of power.
The UN General Assembly adopted the following definition of violence against women: “The term violence against women means any act of violence by men that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women” “It also includes physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work and elsewhere“
4) “lap dancing and exotic dancing clubs make women feel threatened or
uncomfortable” (Royal Town Planning Institute Guide on Gender and Spatial Planning)
5) Women have an increased fear of violence & fear of travelling (Eden, 2007)
6) The coercion of women into prostitution (Bindel, 2004)
Rather than it being the case that women ‘choose’ to offer sexual services some women feel that they have little choice. As one researcher into this area has explained:
“The lack of employment rights, for some women the experience of accumulating debt, expectations of the customers, fierce competition, and a link in public perceptions between lap dancer and stripper/prostitute, create an overall climate where the selling and buying of sex on the premises becomes more likely” (Bindel, 2004:49)
7) The creation of opportunities for prostitution
In one Scottish research study, 31% of men who bought sex, purchased it in a lap-dancing club. (Mcleod, Farley, Anderson & Golding, 2008).
8) Use of lap dancing clubs by sex traffickers to ‘hide’ women trafficked into prostitution (Eden, 2007) “The more the commercial sex industry normalizes this behaviour, the more of this behaviour you get,” says Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition against Trafficking in Women (CATW).
9) Use of underage dancers (Bindel, 2004), such venues May represent an increased risk to girls as well as women.
10) The sexual objectification of women and promotion of sexual availability (Object, 2009).
Research has linked sexual objectification of women and girls to negative body image and self esteem; high rates of eating disorders; seeking plastic surgery; sexual bullying and damaging sexual relations between young people (Object, 2009: 3)
11) Working conditions and terms of employment of lap dancers are frequently inadequate and problematic (Bindel, 2004) these venues are therefore highly likely to undermine gender equality.
12) A recent independent review of research commissioned by the Home Office notes how lap dancing was cited as an aspirational career by young girls (Papadopoulos, 2010). Refusing to allow such venues would send a clear message that lap dancing is neither acceptable nor aspirational.
There is clear evidence of the considerable negative impact that ‘sexual entertainment’ venues have on gender equality and on women and girl’s experiences of discrimination and harassment. To allow sexual entertainment venues would prohibit the ability of the council to fulfil their obligations set out under the Gender Equality Duty (2007). It is thus the view of CRASAC that the appropriate number to be set should be nil.
Additional and supporting information
Coventry has the highest rate of rape within the West Midlands and the West Midlands Region in turn has the third highest regional rate of sexual offending reported to the police in England and Wales. (West Midlands Police 2010)
The PCT in Coventry recognise there is already a serious sexual violence problem. “People living in Coventry are more likely to be the victims of rape and sexual assault than people living in the rest of the West Midlands and the UK as a whole.” Stay Focused, The Annual Report of the Director of Public Health 2011 NHS Coventry and Coventry City Council.
Taskforce Alberti, Dept of Health Response to Rape, 2010 found that 16% of 0-16 year olds have experienced rape, attempted rape or sexual abuse, in Coventry this is estimated to be 9,500 children, most of whom tell no-one.
CRASAC supports around 3,500 men, women and children who have suffered sexual violence every year, this is increasing at a rate of around 25% across all services each year.
In the light of these statistics and the evidence provided it is clear that SEVs have a negative impact on women and girl’s experiences of discrimination at best and may increase their chance of sexual violence at worst.
CRASAC are particularly concerned by statement 1.9 that the Council does not take a ‘moral stance’ with regard to this policy and that SEVs are a ‘legitimate part of the retail and leisure industries’ and would find any decision by Coventry Council to provide a license for premises to provide any of the ‘entertainment’ defined by section 3.2 would ignore the strong links of SEVs with gender inequality and an abuse of women’s human rights, both of which the Council has a legal obligation to counter.
The law allows councils to introduce a ‘nil’ policy for SEVs which acknowledges that they are not simply another part of the retail and leisure industry as the draft policy suggests.
CRASAC would strongly urge the Council in light of the above evidence and their obligations under the Gender Equality Act (2007) that a nil policy for SEV’s is accepted and ratified. We are confident that any gender impact assessment of the operation of SEVs will demonstrate unmitigable negative impact.
CRASAC would be happy to attend any meetings further to this consultation and would appreciate seeing any further documents pertaining to decisions on the appropriate licensing of SEV’s in Coventry.
Bindel, J. (2004) Profitable Exploits: Lap Dancing in the UK. London: Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit.
Eden, I. (2007) Inappropriate Behaviour: Adult venues and
licensing in London. London: The Lilith Project.
Holsopple, K. (1999) Stripclubs according to Strippers: Exposing Workplace Sexual Violence. In Roche Hughes, C & D. (Eds) Making the Harm Visible: Global Sexual Exploitation of Women and Girls, Speaking Out and Providing Services, Kingston: Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. Pp. 252-276
Mcleod, J. Farley, M. Anderson, L. & Golding, J. (2008) Challenging men’s demand for prostitution in Scotland. Glasgow: Women’s Support Project.
Object (2009) Joining up the dot’s: why urgent action is needed to tackle the sexualisation of women and girls in the media and popular culture.
Papadopoulos, L. (2010) Sexualisation of young people – Review. London: Home Office.
Raphael, J. & Shapiro, D (2004) Violence in Indoor and Outdoor Prostitution Venues. Violence Against Women. 10:126-139.