Opinion: Prostitution

POSTED: 03/1/12 4:17 PM

It was all about the sex industry in St. Maarten at the courthouse yesterday afternoon. As our front page story shows, the girls who work in this industry have to put up with quite some stuff that would send any union-leader worth his salt straight through the roof.

Abuse does not begin to describe what the girls working at the Border Bar brothel in Oyster Pond have to go through every day. Mind you: this is the position of the prosecutor’s office that laid out its case against brothel-owner Angel P. yesterday. That the defendant’s attorney has a completely different opinion about the whole unsavory mess should not surprise anyone. It is the defense attorney’s task to show the other side of the story.

What is remarkable, if not outright hilarious, is that the defense called Tochie Meyers as an expert-witness. One would think that brothel-owners stick together, but what the prosecution learned from Meyers’ statement in front of the Judge of Instruction is that there are actually brothels that are nice to the girls that work there.

Meyers said for instance that it is not necessary to take away the passports of the working girls, something that seems to be a habit at the Border Bar.  (Angel P. claimed yesterday that the passports are always available to the girls when they need them, for instance to send money back home, and that he merely puts them away for safekeeping.

Many girls claimed in statements to the police that they are forced to work seven days a week, whether they are sick or not, for incredibly long hours. Meyers told the Judge of Instruction however that it is perfectly possible to let the girls work in two shifts. That gives them at least some breathing space. Keeping the girl’s money aside is also not necessary, Meyers said according to the prosecutor.

So here we have it: a rift in the sex industry. There are a couple of things to keep in mind though: we do not know whether the statements Meyers made are true and we don’t know either whether the statements the girl who filed the complaint against the Border Bar are true.

As far as this last point is concerned, prosecution and defense have a big difference of opinion. The prosecution said that it minutely investigated the complaint the women filed and that it found proof for practically all the complaints she had made. The defense on the other hand noted yesterday that the woman had an alcohol problem and that she was therefore less productive – if readers want to excuse us for using this expression; Therefore she could hardly be a reliable plaintiff.

Well, whether the girl was on the money with all her remarks and whether Tochie Meyers showed the Judge of Instruction the human side of prostitution – we’re not in a position to render judgment.

But here is something everybody knows or ought to know about prostitution. It is the eldest profession in the world; it has always been there and it will always be there. also, nobody gives birth to a beautiful daughter thinking: one day she is going to make a lot of money working as a prostitute at the Border Bar in St. Maarten. We all wish our kids to be healthy and happy – and working in the sex industry is not the idea of happiness for most parents.

Women end up in prostitution not by choice but out of desperation. Only last year we encountered a beautiful young mother in court who had been working as a prostitute at the Casablanca brothel, where she had gotten into a fight with a colleague. Anyone with a heart would have gotten tears in his eyes by just looking at her. This beautiful girl had come to St. Maarten to earn money for her children and her family back home – and for a while she had decided to put up with the ugly business of sleeping with men who are incapable of building a normal relationship.

We are not against prostitution, if only because there is no point. Being against the sex industry does not make it go away. Instead, we ought to find ways to care for the vulnerable women who are lured into this business by shady entrepreneurs who only care about profit. Prostitutes in Amsterdam have their own lobby organization called The Red Thread.

We do not expect girls who come to our island on a six month contract to get involved in unionized activities. But if our government really cared about giving prostitution at least a semblance of a human face it could establish a lobby organization for these girls and make membership – paid for by their employers – a condition for obtaining a work permit. Such a lobby organization could be part of community help desks and they ought to be open for the girls when they go out for their weekly visit to a doctor.

For sure, this will not resolve all the misery that comes with paid sex. But at least it will give working girls a platform where they can get information about their rights and where they are able to file complaints if they have any.

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