The owners of the two champagne clubs in Reykjavík discussed in the media in recent days announced that they are planning to sue for defamation as a result of accusations of prostitution and trafficking.Photo: Wikipedia.
As reported, Steinunn Gyðu- og Guðjónsdóttir, who runs a shelter for former prostitutes, Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, Reykjavík City Council member for the Social Democrats, and Siv Friðleifsdóttir, first mover of the bill in 2010 to ban strip clubs in Iceland, raised concern about the activities of the clubs last week and called for an investigation after an undercover journalist from Fréttablaðið reported on his visit to the clubs.
The journalist described seeing women of foreign origin dressed in underwear at one of the clubs. At the other, the reporter spoke with several women who said they had only recently moved to Iceland, did not speak much English and lived together in a nearby apartment.
The club owners have requested a public apology and the payment of damages of ISK 1 million (USD 8,270, EUR 6,275) from each woman to each of the two clubs by today or they will file suit.
The clubs’ lawyer, Vilhjálmur H. Vilhjálmsson, told visir.is that the clubs vigorously deny any wrongdoing, that prostitution takes place at the club or that the women are there against their will. “They [the clubs] have nothing to fear. The police are welcome to check these operations as they see fit,” Vilhjálmur said. Owner of Crystal bar, Haraldur Jóhann Þórðarson, described the bar’s activities to Fréttablaðið last week: “This is a champagne club. You can buy some nice wine, that’s on the expensive side, and have a chat with the girls who are working here.”
Björk told visir.is that she stood by her words. “I said that all indications are that they are selling access to women. ISK 20,000 for ten minutes, this is nothing more than prostitution. The women are not speaking with these men because they speak neither English nor Icelandic. This is just prostitution. So I think I will just stick by my words,” she said.
Two women working at the VIP club were interviewed by visir.is yesterday. The women, who are British citizens, said they strongly deny being prostitutes and would like a public apology and have hired a lawyer to look into the matter. The women said they had worked in the business for six and nine years respectively and enjoyed the job. “We work to entertain. We speak with men, make them feel comfortable, dance for them and sing. Or just do what makes them happy.”
If a customer pays for a private dance, the women said they move to the upper floor of the building. They said that they are sometimes asked to do things they do not want to do but that that happened everywhere in the business. The women rejected the report by Fréttablaðið that a customer could “do what he wanted” for ISK 20,000.
Anna Katarzyna Wozniczka, Vice-chair of WOMEN (Women of Multicultural Ethnicity Network in Iceland), said that it was important that the women working at the clubs know their rights and whether their work is in line with Icelandic law.
She points to the fact that women from Eastern Europe can travel to Iceland for up to three months without a work permit, making them virtually invisible. According to Anna, it is important that Iceland takes the matter seriously and learns from the experience of neighboring countries.
The police have reportedly visited VIP Club and taken interviews with some of its staff.