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  • Writer's pictureWomens Rights Foundation

Regularisation of Gentlemen’s Clubs in Malta – legitimising prostitution?

Following the court’s ruling whereby it acquitted a topless lap dancer in one of local strip joints in 2013, the government of the day spoke of the possibility of creating a legislative framework to regulate strip clubs in Malta. In 2015, the government said that legislation to regulate gentlemen’s clubs will be issued for public consultation[1]. In 2016, there was talk that lap-dancing clubs being licensed as ‘late night establishments’[2]. On the 3rd August 2017, the government once again announced that lap dancing clubs will shortly be regularised by means of legislative measures that are to be set in place that will manage the operations of gentlemen’s clubs and the manner in which they are advertised[3].

And yet 4 years on we are still talking about the possible introduction of legislative framework that will regularise the commercial business of strip joints. Which leads to question, whether at any point in time has it ever been considered that indeed lap dancing clubs are in actual fact a form or prostitution and exploitation of women. The present government committed itself to debate the issue of prostitution in Malta, not excluding the possibility of introducing the Nordic Model approach to curb exploitation[4]. So why is it that gentlemen’s clubs are being excluded from this debate? Are lap dancing clubs a different category of industry of sexual exploitation? Aren’t women not prostituted in such establishments?

Perhaps we need to first analyse and fully understand what is prostitution. Prostitution is a violation against human rights and is an extreme form of violence against women. It is an obstacle to gender equality.

Prostitution is not merely street or brothel prostitution, but also includes escort agencies, strip clubs and pornography industry[5]. Prostitution objectifies women, it allows women to be sold and entitles men to buy women for their sexual gratification and pleasure. Sociological studies show that prostitution is harmful both psychologically and physically to women. It is not ‘a job’, but to the contrary many women experience sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. It permits a culture where women are bought and sold for sex as though it is a normal thing to do. It is the ultimate form of male privilege and male domination. It permits a culture were women are objectified, sexualised, stripped of their human dignity and values and merely puts women in a category of commodities and goods for the pleasure of the male privilege.

So how are lap dancing clubs any different? Isn’t it just that what takes place in such clubs. Men pay to watch women sexually arouse them. They even go as far as provide private rooms and advertise hotel rooms for men to have the’ full experience’. Strip joints have legitimised prostitution and even ‘glamourized’ commercial sexual exploitation of women.

Strip clubs are promoted as socially acceptable form of sexual exploitation. They are advertised as the place to go for stag nights or boys night out[6]. They are represented as a normalised thing to do which is extremely masculinist and anti-women.

Lap dancing clubs exist because of male privilege and reinforce attitudes and beliefs around male sexual entitlement and female sexual servitude. They portray women and girls as being objects that are merely there to be exploited for male needs.

Following the pledges made during the last electoral campaign to continue working towards a feminist government that would ensure full gender equality, separating the issue of gentlemen’s clubs from that of prostitution, is failing women in Malta and our society.


[5] Stark, Christine. (2006). Stripping as a system of prostitution. In Jessica Spector (ed), Prostitution and Pornography: Philosophical debates. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

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