Rules for adult entertainment clubs will determine whether entertainers can perform naked, semi-naked or clothed.

The rules, which are still under consideration, target gentlemen’s clubs, to be classified as adult entertainment outlets under a new law piloted by the Tourism Ministry.

Adult clubs would also be subjected to zoning requirements to avoid having them open all over the place, and operators would be obliged to adopt a code of conduct for performers and clients, a spokesman for the Tourism Ministry said.

“One of the issues under discussion is how to regulate the dress code of performers on stage and off it, whether they can perform in the nude or seminude, and if so, when is this allowed,” the spokesman said.

He said regulations could allow nude dancing on stage, where no physical contact with clients was possible but impose a semi-nude or clothed dress code for the more intimate lap dancing.

TIMES TALK: Gentlemen's clubs are 'prostitution establishments'

The spokesman insisted the regulations were not intended to legalise prostitution, which would be treated in a separate exercise by the Reforms Parliamentary Secretariat within the Office of the Prime Minister. 

“No final decision has been made yet on the type of dress code, and the rules will be presented to Cabinet after the summer. A public consultation exercise will follow,” he added.

Lap-dancing clubs have mushroomed in Paceville and operate in a legal limbo, something the new rules intend to change. The legal quandary was exposed several years ago when police prosecutions against club owners and women caught dancing in skimpy lingerie were thrown out by the courts.

According to the ministry spokesman, the new rules will ensure the clubs continue to function while avoiding exploitation of performers and clients. The intention was to provide legal clarity for all.

“Operators will be obliged to engage entertainers through legitimate employment agencies, contract them on a self-employed basis or engage them directly according to employment rules.

“Clubs will have to adopt a code of conduct and make it publicly available, to outline what is expected from performers and clients,” the spokesman said.

The rules will regulate the type of signage these clubs can put up on the outside, the extent of soliciting for clients that can be done on the street and impose safety guidelines.

“No graphic signs will be allowed on the facade, and soliciting will be limited to one person on the doorstep to do away with the current free-for-all where Pacevillegoers are harassed on the street by numerous women distributing marketing material for these clubs,” the spokesman said.

Last week, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi rekindled a proposal made last year by his predecessor to regularise such clubs.

The news was met with criticism from women’s rights activists, with the Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations calling for gentlemen’s clubs to be banned rather than regularised. The confederation said businesses that glamorised the exploitation and objectification of women for profit should be closed, because they were “in reality hubs for prostitution, human trafficking and crime”.

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