Louisiana could soon require that exotic dancers be at least 21 years old to perform in strip clubs here.
The state House Judiciary Committee on Thursday swiftly signed off on Senate Bill 468, which would raise the age from the current 18 years required. It now heads to its final hurdle on the House floor, but it has faced no voting opposition to date.
Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, said the intent is to curb human trafficking and limit the risks for teens.
“We have found that a number of these young ladies who are human trafficked end up in strip clubs,” Johns said.
People who are 18-20 would still be able to work other jobs in strip clubs but could no longer work as “entertainers whose breasts or buttocks are exposed to view.”
New Orleans recently adopted a city ordinance with the new age restriction. The bill at the Capitol would take the 21+ requirement statewide.
Judge Madeleine M. Landrieu, who is one of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s sisters, spoke of her experience working with Covenant House, a safe haven for at-risk youth in New Orleans and the need to protect teens who are in bad situations.
“Many of them come from this industry and they have been victimized,” she said. “We can find better jobs, jobs with more dignity for these folks.”
Jim Kelly, executive director of Covenant House, told a story of a teen prostitute whose “John” dropped her off at the shelter recently to get her away from her pimp.
“Strip joints are ripe, fertile territory for young people to be picked up,” Kelly said. “If have to be 21 to drink, don’t you think you should be 21 to take your clothes off?”
During previous hearings, dancers and club owners have spoken against the stricter age requirement. They argued the new age limit would restrict options for some women and that the intent is paternalistic.
No one spoke against the bill on Thursday.
“We need to do something to get these people to recognize that there’s another way of living,” said Rep. Robby Carter, D-Amite. “I wish there’s something we could do to make them go to church.”