Bar & nightlife

Women's rights

The main risks for women in bars or nightclubs concern sexual harassment and exploitation.

In bars and nightclubs, women are particularly exposed to sexual harassment and exploitation by customers, but also by managers or staff members. Bars and nightclubs are also often used as hubs for prostitution. In many tourism destinations, women working in prostitution are victims of human trafficking or have been forced into prostitution out of poverty. Furthermore, women who are exposed to sexually transmitted diseases or other health issues related to their exploitation often do not have access to health institutions or health insurance.

Customers as well as (female) staff are frequently affected by sexual harassment in bars or nightclubs. Often, staff, including security personnel, are not sensitized on sexual harassment issues and dismiss them as an overreaction by victims. Bar and nightclub staff should therefore be trained on how to spot, react to and report issues of sexual harassment.

Sexual exploitation: Scandinavia
Sexual harassment in clubs: UK
Gender inequality: imposition of physical standards
Sexual exploitation: Scandinavia

According to surveys in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, between 15 and 25 percent of all interviewed workers in the hospitality industry (including bars and nightclubs) have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the previous 12 months.

Harassment was mainly on the part of customers, but also experienced by colleagues or managers.

Sexual harassment in clubs: UK

Harassment of young girls or students at bars and nightclubs in the UK is a common phenomenon. According to the article (see link below), sexual harassment happens so frequently that many victims are used to it and do not report it. Students at various universities in the UK have therefore launched campaigns or groups against sexual harassment.

A study carried out by Drinkaware in the UK showed that almost three quarters (72%) of 18-24 year old men and women who drink in bars, clubs or pubs surveyed said that they had seen sexual harassment on a night out. 

79% of women said they expected inappropriate comments, touching and behaviour to take place when they went out – either to themselves or to their female friends. 

Gender inequality: imposition of physical standards

Imposition of physical standards

Another challenge lies in gender inequality in the selection criteria for certain jobs in the tourism sector. Although they have no relation to the tasks’ requirements, these biases are tied to beauty standards which have been set according to Western canons. Equipping the tourism sector with a particular image has been a critical point in attracting workers. For this reason, young workers are often hired with the aim of perpetuating a glamorous image of the sector; thus beauty and youth become indispensable requirements for recruitment. Having physical attractiveness or not having it can have different implications and influence on the distribution within the workplace. In nightclubs and discotheques, employees who comply with the established canon of beauty are located in spaces closer to customers, such as the VIP areas of the venues, with a high sexualisation of their presence and work; while those who do not meet these standards perform other jobs.

Taking action 300x190

Take action

Training and capacity building

  • Train staff on issues of sexual harassment and exploitation and how to spot incidents, react appropriately and how and where to report them.

Communication and reporting

  • Provide information to customers about sexual harassment and exploitation and how to spot incidents, react appropriately and how and where to report them.

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.