Malta Diary To pole dance or not to pole dance – that is the question!
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Why they are termed to be “Gentlemen’s Clubs” is a bit of a paradoxical mystery – a touch of irony perhaps? In the opinion of a number of people the frequenting clientele are certainly not gentle folk and neither are they “respectable gentlemen”. So, Albert Fenech asks, are these ‘clubs’ places of “entertainment” or are they glossed-up and hyped-up brothels with a flash name?
The polemic currently rages in Malta where in recent years these places have been rapidly mushrooming, particularly in Paceville sometimes labelled to be “a Mecca of entertainment” but often more soberly referred to as “a veritable dump of drugs, drunks and rip-offs”.
All this naturally in a context that just a mere 60 years ago Malta was so strait-laced that “red light districts” like Valletta’s Strait Street, and the Gzira and Marsa Waterfronts would not be mentioned in circles of decency and were looked upon as necessary but evil outlets to cater for the desires of the flesh of dissolute seafarers and other such “riff raff”.
Well, all that peeled off rapidly over the last two decades. Strait Street and Gzira have now become “respectable” and are looked upon as niches of a past era while areas of Marsa have retained their notoriety but mainly because they have become areas where unfortunate immigrants congregate in great numbers and physical violence is frequent.
Over the last ten years, most of Malta has experienced “massage parlours” some of which are genuine but many more dubious offering a wide range of “services”, well understood but largely tolerated as long as they do not get flagrantly out of hand.
However, Paceville has become the locality of “Gentlemen’s Clubs” where sparsely clad females coil themselves around poles and may be paid extra to table-dance. The women are not Maltese but from a variety of countries, mostly from Eastern Europe, generating questions as to whether they are doing what they do because they genuinely want to do so or whether they have been trafficked and pressed to provide “entertainment”.
In the eyes of a number of women’s organisations these are definitely dens of evil. The “entertainment” is demeaning to females; such places are brothels; women are bullied into providing sexual services and the clubs are nothing more than centres associated with criminality, prostitution, human trafficking and human exploitation.
Now the new Minister for Tourism Konrad Mizzi has lifted the lid on proceedings by courageously announcing these clubs should be “legalised and regulated” and no longer to allow them to be ignored and to develop at random.
This has given rise to an outburst of protests from female organisations contending this will be nothing more than a legalisation of hitherto illegal activities and that rather than legalising them the Government should close them down and make them outrightly illegal.
Back came the Minister to point out that the main objective is to properly regulate them in legislation as current legislation does not cover them in any way and most just have a licence as a restaurant or a bar. Additionally, these will be subject to frequent random inspections to ensure that no sexual activities are taking place on the premises and that under no circumstance will they be run as brothels.
Lawyer Lara Dimitrijevic however, made her views quite clear. Interviewed by “The Times of Malta” in their programme “TimesTalk” she classed Gentlemen’s Clubs as serving to “glamorise prostitution” because they are part and parcel of the sex trade and should be closed down.
A leading Gender Advocate, Dimitrijevic is also the Women’s Rights Foundation Director and contends that giving men legalised go-ahead to pay money for sexual gratification is in the same class as paying a prostitute for sexual services. The plan to legalise such clubs, she said, is a matter of great concern to her fellow members and her.
Her solution is that Malta should legislate such matters on the so-called Nordic Model that makes it a crime to buy sex rather than that to sell it, a complete shift of the emphasis of prostitutes being prosecuted for selling sex – although in Malta this is not actually a crime. The criminal element in Malta is that of street-walking and loitering to tout for sexual business and not the actual payment of money.
That is where the matter currently rests and the country waits to view the draft legislation.
At the other extreme, more liberal-minded factions are strongly contending that legislation should also cover regulated brothels to end street-walking, pimping, intimidation and curb sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).