St. Maarten Ministry announces new policy for “commercial sex workers”

POSTED: 07/14/14 11:43 PM

St. Maarten – The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor wants to implement new policy rules for work permits for prostitutes and exotic dances immediately. This appears from a memorandum about “commercial sex workers” that appeared on Friday in the National Gazette.

Under the new policy brothels and strip clubs must have a business license from the Ministry of Justice but they must also meet the requirements the Ministry of Public Health demands for obtaining a work permit for what is euphemistically labels “the commercial sex worker.”

The memorandum notes that the current policy that condones prostitution only requires “limited conditions” for obtaining a work permit. They refer only to the costs to process the work permit and a statement about the requester’s health. “For the rest there are hardly any obligations for club-owners,” the memorandum states.

Public Health Minister Cornelius de Weever is of the opinion “that the urgency of the implementation of new policy rules also has to be seen in the perspective of trafficking in women and forced labor. St. Maarten has to make an effort to prevent trafficking in women and forced labor and to combat it where possible.” The memorandum refers hereby to the most recent Trafficking in Persons report from the American State Department that states that there could be as many as 15,000 people doing forced labor in St. Maarten.

Part of the policy is that a request for a new work permit will not be processed until the sex worker that the new candidate replaces has left the islands. The club-owner has to provide proof of departure with a copy of an airline ticket a week before the departure date.

Nevertheless, the policy demands that club-owners file requests for new work permits at least a month before the term of the existing work permit expires.

Club-owners are exempt from recruiting prostitutes or exotic dancers in St. Maarten. The girls of easy virtue must get a labor contract (for 6 months) in English and in the language of their country of origin. The club-owners must take care of medical insurance for the women, who may not be younger than 21.

The memorandum states that a round of consultations with club-owners is “desirable and necessary” though this does not mean that the new policy requires their approval. “It is important to inform them well about the policy and to give them to opportunity to react to it. That is a matter of good and decent governance. It could also be that club-owners come with good arguments that must be able to result in adjustments to the policy,” the memorandum states.

The club-owners met yesterday with their attorney Cor Merx to discuss the new policy.

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