Committee writes new policy on prostitution

POSTED: 06/28/13 11:50 AM

St. Maarten – The Public Prosecutor’s Office is part of a committee charged with writing a new prostitution policy for St. Maarten. The policy will have to be in agreement with the draft new penal code and with the Memorandum of Understanding the justice ministers of St. Maarten, the Netherlands, Aruba and Curacao signed two years ago, on June 20, 2011.

The memorandum calls for an intensified fight against human trafficking and human smuggling. “St. Maarten has a special interest in an active and adequate fight against these phenomena  now that it appears that especially the United States closely monitors efforts in this field,” the 2014 annual plan of the prosecutor’s office states.

The report refers to the annual Trafficking in Persons report of the American State Department. “A negative remark about the situation in St. Maarten could have economic consequences. Apart from that every country that respects itself will have to make sure that underprivileged economic refugees are not shamelessly exploited on its territory or that in the private sector work situations continue to exist that can best be described as modern slavery,” the prosecutor’s office year plan notes. “Especially the latter aspect ought to be an additional motivation for St. Maarten to rid itself of these degrading work situations.”

The new prostitution policy will contain a provision for regular multidisciplinary controls. “This way it is possible to detect at an early stage whether actions are taking place that violate legislation and regulations.”

The Prosecutor’s Office announced furthermore that it will report violations also to the government “so that the government also takes its responsibility where revoking permits and imposing fines are concerned.”

So far, that latter issue is a sore point. The Court in First Instance sentenced the owner of the Border Bar brothel in Oyster Pond, Angel Priest, in March of last year to 54 months imprisonment. The court found Priest guilty of trafficking women, exploitation and robbing the prostitutes at his establishment of their freedom. On the heels of that verdict, the prosecutor’s office asked the government to close the brothel and to revoke its permit. In its 2012 annual report the Prosecutor’s Office notes that so far the government has not reacted to this request.

The current prostitution policy offers little perspective that St. Maarten will make serious work of especially trafficking women. The policy states explicitly that recruiting women abroad for prostitution, paying their ticket to St. Maarten and advance the money for their work permit amounts to human trafficking.

This was exactly the most serious charge against Angel Priest. In February of last year at Priest’s trial prosecutor Manon Ridderbeks, who has in the meantime returned to the Netherlands, gave a detailed explanation about the ins and outs of this criminal activity. Essential to exploitation is the condition that someone is not able to get out of the situation. But the shanghai-practices abroad whereby women are recruited to work in the prostitution in St. Maarten could be deadly for the sex industry on the island because recruiting someone abroad to work in prostitution in another country like St. Maarten is a form of human trafficking,  Ridderbeks said. “Important is that it is completely irrelevant whether circumstances have been abused or force has been used during recruiting. So even if the recruited person agrees to do the job abroad, it is still human trafficking.”

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