Semi-nudity ‘not permitted’ in clubs
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Semi-nudity ‘not permitted’ in clubs

Nudity or semi-nudity is “absolutely not permitted” in gentlemen’s clubs, according to the police, who have defended the way they are monitoring the booming gentlemen’s club industry.

Their defence comes in the wake of a story in The Sunday Times last week that scantily clad dancers in some gentlemen’s clubs are offering clients topless or fully nude dances in private areas for between €40 and €70.

There were no visible signs of the police monitoring the activities taking place in eight gentlemen’s clubs in Paceville and Sliema on the nights they were visited by journalists.

The women wore underwear as they solicited dances, customers and employees smoked openly indoors, and some dancers told the journalists they typically worked until 7 a.m. at weekends, despite clubs being licensed by the Malta Tourism Authority to stay open no later than 4 a.m.

Following the article, a young Swedish man, who preferred to remain unnamed, told The Sunday Times he visited one of Paceville’s gentlemen’s clubs the previous night and did not leave until 9 a.m. the following morning.

In response, the police said “all clubs are monitored and inspected regularly”.

“The police also call (at) these places in plain clothes to check working permits and other issues, such as age and residence in Malta. Police also check if there are any immoral acts being done in these clubs or in places accessible to the public since nudity or semi-nudity is absolutely not permitted.”

But lawyer Jose Herrera took issue with the police’s claim. “How do you define semi-nudity? If we were to prohibit anyone from being skimpily dressed we would have to ban half the films shown in cinemas and arrest everyone at the beach,” he said.

Offending public morals and decency, and being naked or “indecently dressed” is prohibited by the Criminal Code.

But the law is unclear on what constitutes being ‘indecently dressed’. When the police arraigned a club owner and female dancers over indecency in 2005, the magistrate’s decision was clear: being skimpily dressed does not amount to indecency.

“Based on past judgments, you cannot say it is illegal to be a skimpily dressed in a gentlemen’s club – where customers know what to expect. It is not the same as being topless on a beach or walking down Republic Street in a bikini as the public expects different types of attire and levels of decency in different places,” Dr Herrera said.

However, Dr Herrera thinks the government should legislate to ensure the law is clear about what is and what is not permitted inside gentlemen’s clubs, rather than leaving interpretations of vague public decency laws in the hands of the judiciary.

“As a country we very much depend on tourism, so we can’t afford to be seen as an ultra-conservative backwater in Europe. We should not be afraid of allowing these clubs to operate, but we need to give them clear legal boundaries to operate within,” Dr Herrera said.

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