real life

First? Air travel. Next? Iceland shuts down the sex industry.

Until last week when Iceland managed to paralyse the travel plans of most of the world with one little cloud, we never heard much from that particular country. But it’s a pretty fascinating place and not just because it is home to the woman who wore a dying swan to the Oscars.  For starters, did you know that Iceland’s Prime Minister is the world’s only openly lesbian head of state? Or that they’ve just banned strip clubs and are in the process of closing down their sex industry?

It would seem Iceland may be the most female-friendly country on the planet. A shame then that its population is only 320,000 people.

The Guardian reports….

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 Reykjavik and observed the women. None of them looked happy in their work.

So how has Iceland managed it? To start with, it has a strong women’s movement and a high number of female politicans. Almost half the parliamentarians are female and it was ranked fourth out of 130 countries on the international gender gap index (behind Norway, Finland and Sweden). All four of these Scandinavian countries have, to some degree, criminalised the purchase of sex (legislation that the UK will adopt on 1 April). “Once you break past the glass ceiling and have more than one third of female politicians,” says Halldórsdóttir, “something changes. Feminist energy seems to permeate everything.”


Iceland is fast becoming a world-leader in feminism. …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.”
You can read the full article here…

How fascinating. I particularly like the line where the reporter notes: : “…feminists in Iceland appear to be entirely united in opposition to prostitution, unlike the UK where heated debates rage over whether prostitution and lapdancing are empowering or degrading to women”

What do you think? I think it is naive to believe that prostitutes and strippers are particularly empowered. I don’t know about shutting down those industries but the consenting adults argument becomes a little hard to make when you look at how many women work in the sex industry due to drug addictions and desperate circumstances rather than a go-girl desire to be empowered….

[Thanks Laura…]


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