Caribbean gov­ern­ments ad­vised to de­crim­i­nal­ize pros­ti­tu­tion

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

An in­ter­na­tional aca­demic is rec­om­mend­ing the de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of pros­ti­tu­tion in the Caribbean. Pro­fes­sor Ka­mala Kem­padoo of York Univer­sity sug­gests this would help the re­gion get a han­dle on the sex trade, pro­tect at-risk groups, and fight stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion against those en­gaged in the prac­tice. “The de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of pros­ti­tu­tion would go a long way to­wards mak­ing the sex trade a safer place to work and could elim­i­nate un­der­hand deals, could elim­i­nate ex­tor­tions, false prom­ises, the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of sex work­ers by im­mi­gra­tion, smug­gling of per­sons, putting them in shady busi­nesses and so forth. It could al­low work­ing women to gain ac­cess to state pro­tec­tion, health care and rights as any other cit­i­zen or le­gal mi­grant,” she said.

The sug­ges­tion was one of sev­eral put for­ward by the pro­fes­sor dur­ing her lec­ture on the topic ‘Who Traf­fick­ing What? The Caribbean and Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Dis­course’, hosted by the Cave Hill Cam­pus of the Univer­sity of the West Indies.

She fur­ther pro­posed fewer re­stric­tions on im­mi­gra­tion, say­ing “reg­u­la­tion needs to be loos­ened, not tight­ened”.

“Open­ing bor­ders I know is con­tro­ver­sial, but could un­der­mine many of the un­doc­u­mented and clan­des­tine mea­sures and routes that peo­ple use to se­cure a bet­ter life for them­selves and fam­i­lies and would dras­ti­cally re­duce the need for what we call traf­fick­ers or smug­glers.

“We also should not be cutting off our noses to spite our faces when it comes to free­dom of move­ment. We per­son­ally don’t want to be con­trolled or fin­ger­printed and de­nied en­try into places for work or ed­u­ca­tional refuge,” the aca­demic said.

Pro­fes­sor Kem­padoo also hit out at the “rhetoric” sur­round­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing, sug­gest­ing that the prac­tice of anti-traf­fick­ing needs to be ex­posed for the vi­o­lence it vis­its on the marginal­ized, par­tic­u­larly young, mi­grant women.

She warned of the side ef­fects of the way Caribbean gov­ern­ments are deal­ing with hu­man traf­fick­ing, in­clud­ing the de­ten­tion and de­por­ta­tion of vic­tims, which fur­ther stig­ma­tizes the ex­change of sex­ual labour for ben­e­fits.

The pro­fes­sor pointed to the pub­li­ca­tion of the names and pho­to­graphs of vic­tims in Guyana, not­ing this amounted to pub­lic sham­ing and rep­ri­mand of sex work­ers. “Anti-traf­fick­ing ef­forts do lit­tle more than harm the work­ing peo­ple of the re­gion, par­tic­u­larly work­ing women who are try­ing to find so­cial and eco­nomic se­cu­rity for them­selves and their fam­i­lies and who may use their sex­u­al­ity to make a liv­ing or to get by,” she ar­gued.

The aca­demic added that anti-traf­fick­ing is be­com­ing an in­dus­try that cre­ates more “un­free­doms” than free­doms, drains fi­nan­cial re­sources, and takes at­ten­tion away from tack­ling the causes of poverty and in­equal­ity.

Ad­di­tion­ally, she con­tended that con­tin­ued ef­forts by re­gional states to fight the prob­lem have not re­sulted in any of them be­ing el­e­vated to Tier 1 of the Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons Re­port of the US State Depart­ment. This tier is an in­di­ca­tion that a gov­ern­ment has ac­knowl­edged the ex­is­tence of hu­man traf­fick­ing, made ef­forts to ad­dress the prob­lem, and com­plies with the min­i­mum stan­dards of the Traf­fick­ing Vic­tims Pro­tec­tion Reau­tho­riza­tion Act.

As a re­sult, she urged Caribbean coun­tries to re­sist US pol­icy on traf­fick­ing, as well in­ter­na­tional pres­sure.

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