Did Iceland Ban Stripping And Lap Dancing?

By Antonia Čirjak on February 2 2020 in Society

Iceland is unique when it comes to this because it is the only European country that has banned strip clubs.
Iceland is unique when it comes to this because it is the only European country that has banned strip clubs.

Iceland, with a population of a little over 350 000, is a small and independent country that is modern in every sense. As an example, in 2010, the Icelandic Parliament banned striptease. Since this bill was passed, any business that tries to provide entertainment with nude employees violates the ban.

Iceland is unique when it comes to this because it is the only European country that has banned strip clubs. Striptease and strip clubs are still legal in most of Europe.  

Female Politicians Behind The Ban

Siv Friðleifsdóttir, a member of the Progressive Party, presented the bill. Another politician behind the bill was Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir. Her main concern was the supposed connection between prostitution and drugs. Halldórsdóttir also believed that women's rights were seriously violated by their place of business - the strip clubs. In one of her statements, she said that we simply cannot accept that women or people are treated like a product that needs to be sold.

At the time, the first openly gay female prime minister of Iceland, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, said: "The Nordic countries are leading the way on women's equality, recognizing women as equal citizens rather than commodities for sale." There was another female politician, Steinunn Valdís Óskarsdóttir, speaking up for the ban by saying that many women who earn their living by stripping, experience abuse and are often victims of human trafficking. Óskarsdóttir, former mayor of Reykjavik, also stated that with her fifteen years of work experience in this field, she has never met a woman who said that she wanted to dance in a strip club.  

How Did Iceland Ban Stripping And Lap Dancing?

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, most strip clubs were part of a multimillion-dollar business. There were around fifteen strip clubs in and around Reykjavik. Back then, some dancing regulations existed, which meant stripping was mostly against the law. However, a handful of strip clubs were legally permitted to operate. So, in such places, the business was booming. Despite the exemptions, an official ban on stripping happened on July 31st, 2010. This meant that all strip clubs closed.

Attempts To Circumvent The Stripping And Lap Dancing Ban

So-called "champagne clubs" started to pop up in the old strip club district. These clubs provided a particular type of service. They had a back room, more like a private area where clients would come to buy some alone time with a female worker. But, this came to an end in 2015. A crisis center for women, Stígamót, lead a vigorous campaign against champagne clubs, accusing them of prostitution and human trafficking. Eventually, the police raided these clubs and closed them down.   

Reactions After The Ban

Anti-pornography feminists celebrated the passed law while sex-positive feminists criticized it. But, feminists of Iceland are still pretty united against prostitution as opposed to the UK, where two main views seem to conflict: prostitution and lap dancing are degrading to women, and prostitution and lap dancing are empowering women. But a public poll in 2007 showed that 57% of men and 87% of women think that paying for sex in brothels or strip clubs with lap dancing should be a crime. Not even 10% of Icelanders were against criminalization.

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