Caribbean governments advised to decriminalize prostitution

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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 last night by the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.

She further proposed fewer restrictions on immigration, saying “immigration 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 marginalized communities, particularly young, migrant women.

She warned of the serious 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, according to the report. As a result, she urged Caribbean countries to resist US policy on trafficking, as well international pressure.

 

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