Government ordered to accept permit requests for sex workers

PHILIPSBURG–The Court of First Instance on Friday ordered Government to accept requests for permits for workers in the adult entertainment industry. Government also was ordered to make motivated decisions on these requests, on the basis of an interim policy for sex workers, within three weeks.

The Judge was critical of Government’s policy to halt the issuing of work permits for women working in St. Maarten’s adult entertainment industry without putting an interim policy in place.

The Judge made a decision Friday after representatives of nine clubs and Government had failed to reach an agreement on a temporary solution concerning the issuing of permits for sex industry workers, including hostesses, (erotic) dancers, strippers and prostitutes.

To prevent the Government of St. Maarten from being held for an accomplice to human-smuggling, it was decided to halt the issuing of work permits for exotic dancers. Under the former policy requests for three-month permits were to be handled within a period of four months.

No new permits have been issued by the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA since mid-December 2015 and all pending requests for permits have been turned down.

The clubs said this prevented them from continuing their operations. The clubs had filed an injunction and an administrative procedure against Government over its move to discontinue the processing of employment and residence permits for exotic dancers pending the finalisation of a new policy, which Government said might still take three to four months.

The clubs wanted Government to honour the current (discontinued) policy and process the applications received for permits since December 2015, until the new policy is in place.

A new policy is to be based on the new Criminal Code and on international law and treaties banning human-smuggling.

The administrative procedure concerned the blanket turning down of permit requests that were submitted after the discontinuation. Pending an interim policy, the Court did not order Government to make a decision on any pending requests, or to accept requests filed under the former policy.

The clubs are concerned that since the discontinuation of the processing of permits, no mechanism has been put in place for them to bring in female workers in the interim to sustain their operations while the new policy is being ironed out. The situation is stifling their operations and could lead to their closure, the clubs claim.

According to Government, an interim policy is not possible as it would make it an accomplice to human-smuggling. The Prosecutor’s Office is against any type of contract between the clubs and their employees, but the brothel owners claim that not every contract with a female worker would be against the law. Not every worker is forced or recruited and there are women who work in the industry voluntarily, of their own accord, the clubs’ attorney Jairo Bloem said.

Source: Daily Herald
Government ordered to accept permit requests for sex workers