Georgia Proposes Charging Strip Clubs for “Trafficking”

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North America & Caribbean Regional Correspondent
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In the United States, the Georgia House has approved a constitutional amendment charging strip clubs to “help combat child sex trafficking.”

The charge would be $5,000 or one percent of revenue on adult entertainment businesses, whichever is greater. The funds will apparently go towards a new commission responsible for coordinating services for victims of child trafficking, although details on this are very vague.

Rep. Tom Weldon (a Republican) made the bold claim that strip clubs cause child sex trafficking, saying: “these are not legitimate businesses. These are strip joints. They are illegitimate and they need to pay for the problem and the cancer they have brought to each community in our society." The text of the bill states that strip clubs are “a point of access” for children to come into contact with people who would abuse them but offers no evidence of how this conclusion was arrived at.

Alan Begner, an attorney for several of strip club owners, told WABE, Atlanta’s NPR station, that there was no evidence linking strip clubs to child prostitution or trafficking. He said that he will sue if the measure is passed into law.

Both measures must return to the Senate for consideration after revisions were made. According to WABE, voters would still have to approve the fee because the state constitution would be altered if it passed into law.

The amendment's proponents have “barely even bothered to justify why strip club owners should be liable for footing this particular bill” says the US website, Reason, going on to ask:

“Imagine the outrage if lawmakers were trying similar shenanigans on any other category of business—soliciting an annual fee from gas stations to fight rape, say, or forcing podiatrists to subsidize drunk-driving checkpoints. Most Americans would have no problem identifying these schemes as unfair and outrageous. But throw an element of sex in the mix and anything goes. A stripper is a sex-trafficker is a source of state revenue.”

It’s not the first time lawmakers have penalised strip clubs for unrelated problems. Texas passed a “Sexually Oriented Business Fee” on nude clubs serving alcohol in 2007 (popularly known as the “pole tax.”) This is a $5 fee collected from every customer and funneled into programmes for sexual assault victims. Texas strip clubs appealed the fee but lost in a court ruling last year.

In the United States, strippers are charged (often outrageously high) “house fees” in order to work a shift at a club. The logical outcome of a strip club being required to pay such egregious charges as these is that club owners will pass the burden onto to the strippers who are forced to work even harder to earn their house fees. Lawmakers who claim to care about the welfare of their constituents should consider that imposing such burdens on the basis of zero to flimsy evidence makes life more difficult for many.