Opinion: Emancipation Day

POSTED: 04/20/12 2:34 PM

“Emancipation Day therefore is a celebration of the victory of the human spirit over the inhumanities and injustices of slavery. What we are celebrating is freedom and as such this is not just a day for St. Maarteners alone, but for everyone who resides on our island.”

We are not going to play twenty-one questions and ask our readers: who said this and when? The answer is that Culture Minister Rhoda Arrindell made this statement on June 15 of last year. The draft law to make Emancipation Day a national holiday was “going through the required legislative process.”

That process is apparently very, very long. On Wednesday Minister Arrindell said that the process to declare Emancipation Day a public holiday is “processing quite nicely.”

That’s a daring statement, coming almost a year after the same stuff was apparently going through the required legislative process.

But the travesty of it all is that according to the minister this day is supposed to celebrate “the victory of the human spirit over the inhumanities and injustices of slavery.” It’s a lofty goal for sure, especially since the minister added that it’s not a day for St. Maarteners alone, but for everyone who resides on the island.

We immediately had to think about the Border Bar, a specialist in the trafficking of women from the Dominican Republic who are enslaved in prostitution in St. Maarten. Will there also be an emancipation day for these women? Does the minister maybe prefer to turn a blind eye to the slavery that is taking place in St. Maarten today?

It is hard to imagine that a female minister would turn her back on the fate of the foreign prostitutes that are exploited in our local brothels. As long as she keeps silent about this situation, as long as she does not stand up and declare something like, enough is enough, declaring Emancipation Day a national holiday will be just another travesty.

How could anyone celebrate that victory of the human spirit while said spirit is still busy enslaving women right under our noses?

The question could also be put to our Minister of Labor: why does the government condone the labor conditions prostitutes are subjected to? Because they practice the oldest profession in the world? Does that make these women inferior to others even though they are employed in legal businesses? Why is the Border Bar still open? Why are all other so-called houses of pleasure not subjected to an inspection by the labor department – at least, why have we not heard anything about such an initiative since it became clear in court that at least one of our well-connected brothel owners is wiping his sagging behind with the labor laws?

Emancipation Day would be a nice opportunity to make some amends – but don’t count on it that this will happen.

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