Is Sint Maarten legalizing prostitution?

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Claude chacho Peterson

On January 28, 2016, an article in The Daily Herald reported that effective immediately and due to a court ruling, which stated that the old resident and work permits issued to exotic dancers by the St. Maarten Government amounted to “conspiracy in human slavery,” according to international standards, no new permits would be issued to club owners.

The ruling basically says that the St. Maarten government for decades has been involved as a conspirator in committing crimes in the area of human slavery. The Government knew that all along, but chose to ignore it while a few fattened their pockets. It would be very interesting for us as a people to know how much money has prostitution contributed to the coffers of Government since it was introduced.

So now the Government’s solution to fighting human slavery and trafficking is to come up with a procedure to give an Independent Entrepreneurship License, which lately has become an Entrepreneur Permit to persons in order to perform as sex workers.

Minister Gibson explained on January 28, that the exotic dancers (entrepreneurs) will have to file for an independent entrepreneur license from the Department of Economic Affairs. The entrepreneur dancers will then be able to “establish their business” with adult entertainment clubs operating in the country, by “making an agreement” with them or with anyone else.

Minister Gibson explained on June 29, that the Minister of Justice still has to decide and inform the owners of the clubs which of them will be allowed to operate as brothels and which would be allowed to operate as entertainment clubs. Gibson said the matter was discussed last Thursday in the Council of Ministers meeting, but nothing has been finalized as yet. He said the Minister of Justice still has to bring his proposal to the Council of Ministers as well as the Minister of TEATT.

Gibson said the Minister of TEATT informed the Council last week that she found a modus on which to issue the “entrepreneur permits” to the sex workers who would then have to the freedom to live on their own, and to also negotiate and do business with the clubs of their choice that are permitted to operate as a brothel.

It has become clear to me that this coalition government is in the process of legalizing prostitution and the general population is not being consulted. As a concerned citizen of this island and a father, I am left with so many questions which I have listed below:

Why is it Minister Gibson the spokesman on this matter? Why isn’t PM Marlin speaking for the COM? Is he worried about the repercussions for the September elections? How much revenue does Government generate from this presently illegal activity annually? How many sex workers existed in the past system? How many entrepreneur permits will be given out? How many brothels exist presently? Who will be able to apply for this new Entrepreneur Permit? Will this permit be available for any women around the world? Will our St. Maarten local women be able to apply for this permit? Will this permit be available for both women and men? Who will file for this permit? Will this process be available online? What will be the cost? How long will this permit be valid? Will the scope of services to be provided by these entrepreneurs be listed in this license?

The Minister also stated that they could make an agreement with Club owners or anyone else.

Who is anyone else?

Will the Government be issuing new licenses for brothels? Will these licenses be available for any citizen? How many brothel licenses will be given out?

Can any citizen make an agreement with the Entrepreneur Permit holders and provide their services? This question is not clear. What will be the hours of operation for these permit holders?

Can these entrepreneurs operate on the boardwalk or anywhere else they please? Will the government of any country of origin of one such person requesting a license, be informed what their citizen is coming to do in St. Maarten? How will that work with countries like the USA where prostitution is illegal? Will these entrepreneurs carry a special ID? Who will control that they undergo regular medical screening? Will there be an age limit or age range for applicants?

Who will be responsible for the taxes to be paid by these entrepreneurs? Will they receive a crib number? Will they be paying turnover tax? Will the permit holders provide receipts to customers?

Will these entrepreneurs be able to operate from any location such as an apartment or house in any district? If YES, will they be allowed to put up signage to advertise their place of business?

Will they be able to advertise in our local newspapers, websites, TV stations, travel websites like Trip Advisor, Facebook, etc.?

Will the Tourist Office be promoting this a new feature of our product to the world in the form of Sex Tourism? Has a study been made to take into account the potential negative impact on our tourism product? Has a study been made on the potential impact on social issues within our communities?

Has the COM tried to find out how this issue is being handled in Aruba and Curaçao who also have entertainment clubs?

Unless there is something I am missing, this proposed permit will present our society with so many potential negative issues. In my opinion, this new permit will lead to even more exploitation of these women and our Government will not be able to contain the problem. Our Government is incapable of controlling our supermarket prices, but we have to believe they will be able to control prostitution. Our court system will surely end up being burdened with a lot more cases of abuse and exploitation.

As I listened to Minister Gibson paint such a doom and gloom picture of our economy, I cannot help but wonder what is the real motivation behind all this? Is this what the Minister meant when he spoke about looking at our tourism product and innovating?

I really hope the St. Maarten people will pay attention to this issue and seek to be consulted on this matter. Our integrity as a people is at stake. NO SUCH PERMIT SHOULD BE IMPLEMENTED WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF SXMNERS. This issue needs to be brought to a referendum.

I trust that our Prime Minister, our Ministers, our Chair Lady of Parliament and our Parliamentarians will not run from their responsibilities on this very serious matter. The time for pretending this issue does not exist has passed and St. Maarten people deserve to know your stance on this matter. ARE WE LEGALIZING PROSTITUTION? 

CORRUPTION IS NOT MY CULTURE. DON’T LET IT BE YOURS!!!

Claude A.H. Peterson

Candidate on the SMCP