Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Jamaica could benefit from decriminalising prostitution, says Gomes - Health Minister insists too many risks involved

Published:Wednesday | June 14, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
Dr Carolyn Gomes

The push for the decriminalisation of prostitution is generating further momentum with the Executive Director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, Dr Carolyn Gomes, insisting that such a move could prove economically and socially beneficial.

Decriminalising prostitution, she points out, would allow for the security forces to refocus their resources and efforts in other areas, in dire need of their attention, stressed Gomez.

Gomes is suggesting that legislators take an open-mined look at other countries which have made prostitution a none-criminal activity and adopt best practices for the Jamaican context.

"If you look at the studies internationally, Holland, particularly, what you find is less of the violence, less of the abuse and much more of a public health approach to people, whose choice it is to work in the sex trade," Gomes told The Gleaner.

"For the Jamaican context, it would allow people to have access to services, it would free-up the security forces from fighting something that is a mutual consenting activity between adults and allow proper management of the sector including the sex workers and their client," she added.

However, Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton said that the matter has not yet come up for discussion at Government level and that the situation must be viewed in line with what the law stipulates.


Legal considerations


"I cannot advance a view beyond anything what the current law is, which is that prostitution remains illegal in Jamaica and therefore we need to enforce the law," said Tufton.

He reasoned that there are significant risks involved in either decriminalising of legalising the practice.

"If it comes to that, we may find that it may put added pressure on the already strained public health system," Tufton said.

Taxes can be generated from prostitution - Gomes

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton has said that the ministry does, as a matter of discourse, provides support and advice to vulnerable groups including sex workers. Adding that to ignore the risks would be unwise.

"As it relates to decriminalisation, that is something that's right now, not on the cards and have not been raised or discussed in the executive arm of the government," the minister said.

For Carolyn Gomes, a proponent for a more liberal stance on the sex trade, advocacy in favour of decriminalisation can be a useful tool for the generating of taxes and to take pressure off a group that prefers to use their bodies as tools of their trade.