Sex workers have stepped forward to defend Labour’s General Election candidate for Rother Valley after she was accused of supporting a Sheffield lap dancing club amid controversy.
Sophie Wilson, who is bidding to replace Sir Kevin Barron in the South Yorkshire constituency after he announced his retirement, was criticised by abuse survivor and campaigner Sammy Woodhouse and others online for attending a rally organised against the club’s closure by workers.
It came after undercover filming earlier this year allegedly showed dancers sexually touching punters.
Subsequent inspections by Sheffield City Council found no evidence the club's management was aware of the breaches, the contracts of dancers involved were ended, and ultimately the council’s licensing committee allowed the venue to stay open.
However during the controversy Ms WIlson attended an event arranged to protest against the closure of the club, however she said she was there to support workers not the establishment.
Ms Wilson said: “I am proud of my record of defending workers’ rights.
Rother Valley Labour candidate rapped on the knuckles for social media strip club row
'Illusion of choice' accusations as Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron hits out at selection process for his successor
“I support the rights of women working in sexual entertainment venues to unionise and organise within their workplaces. That does not imply any support for exploitative employers.”
Cat Smith, a member of Decrim Now - a coalition of sex workers, trade unionists and feminist activists - said: “Sex workers and other feminists are grateful to Sophie Wilson for supporting our rights. It should come as no surprise that a member of the Labour Party supports worker’s rights - that the workers in question are dancers is irrelevant.
“Women’s groups and feminist activists increasingly see that sex worker rights are women’s rights - this attempt to paint Sophie as ‘anti-woman’ is disgraceful and it will fail.”
While a spokesperson for the trade union United Voices of the World (UVW) added: “UVW members fight to defend and demand labour rights in all industries.
“Sex workers members, the vast majority of whom are women, are currently organising to ensure they have access to the same legal protections workers have in all other sectors. To deny them these rights is to deny workers' rights.”
However Ms Woodhouse said Ms Wilson “went against [...] damning evidence of wrongdoing”. She said: “[The club] should have been shut down, men stopped, girls made safer and other girls could have gone into other clubs if that’s what they wanted.”