Thursday, December 3, 2015

Freedom for Dad’s Dan

There is no better indication that an economy is in peril than a popular brothel no longer being able to bribe the police to look the other way. On Monday, the Ministry of National Security with much fanfare publicly announced that they had busted the notorious Chaguanas brothel ‘Dad’s Dan’, charging the owner with human trafficking offenses and keeping a brothel. And sure enough by Wednesday we learnt that the TT dollar had depreciated against the US dollar. 

For readers unfamiliar with the seedy underbelly of Chaguanas nightlife, 'it’s alleged' that Dad’s Dan has been a house of ill repute for decades. During this time it has been routinely raided by the police, and even burnt down a few years ago.

Yet despite all this, Dad’s Dan has proven to be the most resilient building in the entire country, continuously being maintained and reopened. It makes you wonder if someone would finally repair the historic buildings making up the Magnificent Seven if they each started offering lap dances. 

I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that Dad’s Dan won’t remain closed for very long. I would also suggest to the Ministry of National Security that if we genuinely care about stamping out criminality in the sex trade then the best solution would be to simply legalize prostitution.

Firstly, a distinction needs to be made between human trafficking and prostitution. Human trafficking involves the abduction and violent coercion of persons into sexual slavery. Prostitution involves a consensual trade of sex by adults; with the seller getting paid and the buyer getting sex and a free serving of repressed shame and guilt. We should be doing all we can to stop Human trafficking. We should also realize that the best way to deal with the world’s oldest profession is to pull the covers off it. 

Legalizing prostitution has many potential benefits. First of all it would make sex workers safer. As it stands, sex workers who are victims of violence are less likely to turn to the police. That wouldn’t be the case if prostitution were legal. Furthermore, a regulated and licensed Brothel would need to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees if they wanted to keep their license.

Secondly, legalization would help limit the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Sex workers could be required to get regular STD tests and brothels mandated to dispense condoms to ensure safe sexual practices were being followed.

Thirdly, legal prostitution could be a source of tax revenue. Prostitution is pretty much a recession proof industry and it could provide a steady stream of revenue that could fill state coffers. After all, the state already taxes the vices most of us indulge in, such as alcohol, tobacco and believing we can actually win the lotto. 

The arguments in favor of legalizing prostitution carry a lot of merit, which is why there appears to be a deliberate attempt to undermine it by the now peculiar way law enforcement and others blur the lines between human trafficking and prostitution.

In their press release about the Dad’s Dan bust the Ministry of National security claimed to have "rescued" two Venezuelan women, bringing the total to 26 people “rescued” since the counter trafficking unit was established in 2013. They don’t say if these women were indeed being held against their will and forced into sexual slavery, but judging by the self-congratulatory tone of the Ministry’s release, you would swear they just liberated Auschwitz.   

This conflation between human trafficking and prostitution is no accident. As journalist Elizabeth Nolan Brown points out in her excellent piece for Reason Magazine, “The war on sex trafficking is the new war on drugs”. The term ‘Human Trafficking’ has become useful for religious groups, anti-prostitution groups, feminists and other killjoys who simply want to target prostitution. 

Exposing how federal statistics on human trafficking are either false or inflated to encompass prostitution, Brown writes, “A federal war on prostitution doesn't play well with large segments of Americans. Fighting human trafficking, on the other hand, is a feel-good cause.” 

There is good reason to believe that a similar modus operandi is at work here in T&T. After all, the headline, “Cops bust human trafficking ring” sounds a lot better than, “cops apparently with nothing better to do arrest two women at Dads Dan”.

Ultimately the difference between Human Trafficking and prostitution has to do with freedom. No one has the right to infringe on the freedoms of others by forcing them into sexual slavery.

Likewise no one should have the right to limit the freedoms of those who choose to be sex workers. That’s why local advocates against human trafficking should also be passionate champions for the freedom of sex workers.  


1 comment:

NomisTT said...

What??? Do something as progressive as legalizing prostitution? What's next the decriminalization of marijuana and homosexuality? Never!!!!