A BU repost from elsewhere because it should be a matter of public interest if for the only reason that it exposes our hypocrisy – Barbados Underground
There may be more explanations than one for the deafening public silence that has followed the recent suggestion from Professor Kamala Kempadoo of York University that prostitution should be decriminalized in the region and, since we are included in that region, should be decriminalized in Barbados.
While delivering the Sir Arthur Lewis Distinguished Lecture for 2016 under the auspices of the eponymous Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), the professor asserted, “…the decriminalization of prostitution would go a long way towards making the sex trade a safer place to work and could eliminate underhand deals, extortions, false promises, criminalization of sex workers by immigration, smuggling of persons…It could allow working women to get access to State protection, health care and rights…”
Among the several explanations for the subsequent silence is the fact that many Barbadians may be astounded at the need to “decriminalize” a practice that is widely connived at and, given local knowledge, is not at all the subject of rigorous official proscription by the state. Indeed, to many of the populace, prostitution is already criminalized if not partially legalized.
It might also be the case that, as with other modern calls for decriminalization –of consensual homosexual acts between adult males in private and of marijuana, the seemingly cultural Barbadian trait of justifying the status quo as optimal immediately kicks in to resist even the suggestion of amendment. Moreover, as Professor Kempadoo rightly noted, there is much moral indignation and stigma that surrounds sexual inclinations.
It may be, therefore, that while there is general ignorance concerning the legalities of prostitution, any suggestion that the status quo should be altered to the further legitimization of the practice is definitely not to be supported.
The truth is that Barbados appears officially to have adopted the stance that while prostitution may be an inescapable reality of human interaction, it prefers to embrace the so-called “abolitionist ” approach; whereby the clandestine sale of sex may be permitted, but all related commercial activities (solicitation, living off the earnings of a prostitute, the keeping of a brothel and procurement) are criminalized by statute.
This does, of course, present a dilemma for us since we generally tend to view the activity of prostitution as sinful, at least overtly, and not in keeping with our claimed Christian values. At the same time, the absence of rigorous enforcement of the law, except perhaps in the context of immigration regulation, belies our moral indignation.
The decriminalization of prostitution for us would thus entail the removal of the criminal sanction from those related activities mentioned above, a phenomenon that we are not certain would meet with popular support, especially since they are all directed to the protection of the prostitute from exploitation.
Professor Kempadoo’s thesis is premised on the argument that sex for economic security in the region is often a “strategy that keeps families and communities afloat” and “effects many other areas of income generation and small business opportunities”, including “hair and nail services”.
We are in no position to gainsay the validity of the professor’s assertions, although we consider that her proposals are much better suited to a jurisdiction that criminalizes the act of prostitution itself. Barbados currently does not.
There may be room for an argument that the stigma and discrimination that the members of this profession attract is to be regretted, although further research may be needed to establish the extent to which these unjustifiably prevent access to public health care and to the enjoyment of civic entitlements.