25 March 2010
Iceland has just banned all strip clubs. Perhaps it's down to the lesbian prime minister, but this may just be the most female-friendly country on the planet
more impressive: the Nordic state is the first country in the world to ban
stripping and lapdancing for feminist, rather than religious, reasons. Kolbrún
Halldórsdóttir, the politician who first proposed the ban, firmly told the
national press on Wednesday: "It is not acceptable that women or people in
general are a product to be sold." When I asked her if she thinks
news is a real boost to feminists around the world, showing us that when an
entire country unites behind an idea anything can happen. And it is bound to
give a shot in the arm to the feminist campaign in the
According to Icelandic police, 100 foreign women travel
to the country annually to work in strip clubs. It is unclear whether the women
are trafficked, but feminists say it is telling that as the stripping industry
has grown, the number of Icelandic women wishing to work in it has not.
Supporters of the bill say that some of the clubs are a front for prostitution
– and that many of the women work there because of drug abuse and poverty
rather than free choice. I have visited a strip club in
So how has
Johanna Sigurðardottir is Iceland's first female and the world's first openly lesbian head of state. Guðrún Jónsdóttir of Stígamót, an organisation based in Reykjavik that campaigns against sexual violence, says she has enjoyed the support of Sigurðardottir for their campaigns against rape and domestic violence: "Johanna is a great feminist in that she challenges the men in her party and refuses to let them oppress her."
there is the fact that feminists in
Jónsdóttir says the ban could mean the death of the sex industry. "Last year we passed a law against the purchase of sex, recently introduced an action plan on trafficking of women, and now we have shut down the strip clubs. The Nordic countries are leading the way on women's equality, recognising women as equal citizens rather than commodities for sale."
Strip club owners are, not surprisingly, furious about
the new law. One gave an interview to a local newspaper in which he
Janice Raymond, a director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, hopes that all sex industry profiteers feel the same way, and believes the new law will pave the way for governments in other countries to follow suit. "What a victory, not only for the Icelanders but for everyone worldwide who repudiates the sexual exploitation of women," she says.
is confident that the law will create a change in attitudes towards women.
"I guess the men of
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