The Prime Minister’s attempt to change the conversation about the TT Coastguard’s response to a migrant shipment to one centered on trafficking and prostitution is clumsy and unnecessary.
The circumstances that led to the shooting death of Ya Elvis Santoyo are still under investigation and this tragedy should not be confused with the criminal trafficking of women into this country for prostitution.
These are two issues that deserve attention, but not the same attention simultaneously.
Grouping prostitution into the issue of trafficking also avoids the nuances of both crimes.
People are being trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation, and the Prime Minister is right to note that demand is fueling the rise of both crimes.
TT has been awarded a Tier 2 ranking for its efforts to meet the requirements of the Protection of Victims of Trafficking Act, but more needs to be done.
In addition to calling on the opposition to pay more attention to these issues, the Prime Minister must demonstrate a greater ability to recognize the social nuances that lead to prostitution and the circumstances that encourage the monstrous crime of child prostitution .
In February 2018, a bitchy woman was detained and charged with forcing her 13-year-old daughter into prostitution.
In March 2019, Chang Boa Wang was charged with harboring 14 Chinese and five Venezuelans. Further investigation rescued a total of 19 Venezuelan girls aged between 15 and 19 from a home in Westmoorings.
Despite these small victories, in July 2020, the 18th Report of the Joint Human Rights Commission on Migrants noted that between 2013 and 2019, 484 reports of sexual exploitation against immigrants had not resulted in any conviction.
In response to an appeal by Ramona Ramdial to Parliament in July 2020 for the closure of three known brothels, Central Division Police responded noting that it was the function of the courts to shut down a business.
Apparently, once their bar licenses are up to date, what happens in the back rooms goes beyond the scope of the police.
Migrants who find themselves in the country under weak or non-existent authority are clear targets for exploitation, especially when their economic situation is fragile.
Prostitution is largely the result of vulnerability, an economic choice that results from fewer employment alternatives.
TT is far from considering even the possibility of decriminalizing prostitution, but the state must react sensitively to the situation of women who survive in black economies characterized by low wages, poor working conditions and no contractual protection.
Non-judgmental social intervention in these circumstances by NGOs and trained social workers could improve options and conditions and, at the very least, remove at-risk children from the limiting oppression of child exploitation.