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From The Socialist newspaper, 29 July 2009

Success for Stop the Strip campaign

THE WHITE Hart in New Cross, south London, which had previously been operating as a lap dancing bar, has now returned to being run as a normal bar. This is an enormous success for our local campaign, "Stop the Strip", set up with local people and Socialist Party members.

Tania Eadie

The campaign successfully held a large demo of over 100 people, and was about to launch a campaign calling on Lewisham council to take a stronger position.

We wanted Lewisham to sign up to an aspect of the new Police and Crime bill, currently going through parliament, that would require lap dancing establishments to be licensed as sex encounter clubs. At present it is up to local councils whether they sign up to this legislation or not. We wanted to get a firm commitment from Lewisham council that they would sign up to it.

Our campaign is not over. We've achieved our aim of closing down a lap dancing club, but there are at least 300 lap dancing clubs across the UK! The women who work in these bars don't do it because it's fun. The reasons why are complex but for many, it is fairly simple, they need the money.

It is not a choice between a holiday in Britain or abroad for many people; it's a stark choice between food for the week or a heating bill. Places like the White Hart seem to offer the promise of easy, quick money. In reality, they offer the 'opportunity' to be demeaned and treated like a sex object.

They also offer the opportunity to work in a violent, dangerous environment. These are places where the expectation is that a women working there may possibly have sex with a customer.

They also increase the risk of violence in an area. When we held our demo in May many women told us that having a lap dancing club in the area made them feel unsafe. No wonder, in a borough with the sixth highest incidence of rape in London.

At the demo, one guy who goes into the bar came up to us and tried to explain how it was just a bit of saucy fun. Lap dancing has become 'normalised'. But it's not normal. It treats women as objects, commodities to be ogled at. None of us should have to put up with that.

Although we closed the White Hart lap dancing club, there are plenty of other places like it. Socialists have to work to close these places both by explaining the reasons why women work in them and by demanding decent jobs and opportunities for all.

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