Brothels balk at interim solution country offers


Clubs are desperately low on girls

St. Maarten News – The Court in First Instance will pronounce its verdict in the dispute over work permits for prostitutes between nine brothels and the government next week Friday. After almost a month, parties have not managed to reach an agreement for an interim-solution and now Judge Katja Mans will have to cut through this Gordian knot.

In December of last year, then interim Minister of Justice Richard Gibson decided to put a full stop on work permits for prostitutes, and said that the government would devise a new policy – one that would set the government free from involvement in human trafficking. Five months down the road, that policy is still not completed, and in the meantime the government has rejected at least 63 requests for work permits; some of these requests were not handled at all.

The brothels are now in dire straits. Le Petit Chateau, normally buzzing with 35 working girls, has just six girls left and the situation at other brothels is not much brighter.

Yesterday parties met again in court. Herbert Coffie, a legal advisor to Minister of Justice Edson Kirindongo, outlined the interim solution the government has on offer.

Prospective sex workers abroad will be able to obtain the requirements for working in St. Maarten’s brothels via email. This information will be available to everybody, Coffie said, adding that the intention is to protect the privacy of applicants. The ministry would process requests for work permits within a week and then contact club owners to place the girls. In a couple of weeks the government could have a website up and running where brothels could advertise their vacancies.

In the meantime, the girls could travel to St. Maarten. In case the permit request is not handled within a week, the ministry will extend this period. “They could also come as tourists to the island and file their request here,” Coffie said.

He stressed that the safety and liberty of the girls and women is paramount. “The club owners will have to offer them a decent contract,” he said. “It has to guarantee the women’s independence.”

Attorney Jairo Bloem, who represents the nine brothels that took the country to court, wondered what the difference is with the practice that was valid until December. “The government does not want to facilitate human trafficking by issuing permits. In this proposal the contact with the women goes via the ministry of justice and not via the clubs. What is the difference?”

The government insists that the clubs no longer intervene in recruiting women abroad, but Bloem emphasized that recruiting is not punishable per se. “It is only punishable if the women are coerced. Now the women apply to the government that sees to it that they meet the requirements and then approval follows. It is all the same.”

Source: Today SXM Brothels balk at interim solution country offers