Some weeks ago we brought you the story on the advocacy work being done on behalf of women who would like to have prostitution be looked upon and embraced as an accepted form of employment. We told you of the organization Tikkun Olam and their work being done with funding from an agency in Latin America. As a follow up to that we brought you an interview with the Mayor of Orange Walk Town, Kevin Bernard who spoke of his council’s efforts in eradicating the bars that they believe condone the sex work profession. Tonight as another follow up we bring you further comments on the issue. Attorney Dolores Balderamos spoke to us on the legal aspect of prostitution.
DOLORES BALDERAMOS GARCIA
“Let me say this, per se I don’t know of any law that says prostitution itself is illegal. What is illegal is the pandering, running a house of ill repute those are the kinds of things that are illegal on the books but of course that is assuming a moral code that prostitution is not correct. So let me say it’s not something that you can wipe out entirely but the message has to be sent that society will frown on this and not only frown on this but in relation to minors we are going to take a dim view.”
As for the views from some persons in the public, we are yet to interview anyone who is willing to embrace prostitution as a legal profession.
DOLORES BALDERAMOS GARCIA
“Now I can’t stand here and say that I am in support of any organization that would be supporting sex workers as such however from the point of view of fighting HIV and AIDS, a certain empowerment for women I would respect their right to exist but I wouldn’t say that it is something that should be widely accepted in society but again I don’t want to bring my moral beliefs into it. I’m just basically saying that the more empowerment you can give the better. Let me refer for a moment to the issue of men who have sex with men, whether I agree with it or not if it occurs and if the population of men who have sex with men in Belize has a 14% rate of HIV prevalence that is abominable. It tells you that something is seriously wrong with the national response and we have to be outraged about that, not because of what we might think of homosexuality it is because it is a vulnerable population that has basic human rights just like everybody and we need to be the ones to respond without making that kind of moral judgment.”
“Well as it relates to the group that is actually trying to legalize prostitution and to make it a part of the economy COLA has not sat to look at this issue but right at the forefront there are some moral issues that are there but I think that it will be a good discussion because it’s something that happens quite openly in our Belizean society whether at the different bars and even there are people who are willing to give sex in exchange for money and I think the country will have to look at all these issues whether it is the LGBT issue, these issues of prostitution and to see what kind of moral society we are creating and we want to develop and so I think I don’t have the authority to say what COLA’s position is but there are definitely some front burning issues that come to mind and we will have to look at; it’s one thing to tell your child to be an attorney, a fireman, a police officer, but how do you raise a child to say you can sell your body? And to find out they are getting funding for such an activity it raises alarms as to where we are as a society but I think it speaks to wider subject of morality.”
PASTOR ASHLEY ROCKE
“I haven’t really been keying in on that issue. It’s the first time I’m hearing it for you and so I don’t know if I’ll be able to correctly make a comment on that. “
SENATOR MACARIO COY
“All of these things are coming up in society, Renee, right now but we need to be able to have a policy for these things. Personally in the capacity of principal I believe that there is no need for that and I don’t think that we in this country are ready for that.”
Attorney Balderamos-Garcia says the issue of prostitution has been a part of the discussion for years now.
DOLORES BALDERAMOS GARCIA
“In the very first anti trafficking in person’s committee we were calling for what you call a paradigm shift instead of the women in the bars in Orange Walk being considered illegal immigrants and you book them under the labor laws that they don’t have work permits you look more at a situation of what are their circumstances. Can we find that there is trafficking in persons here, can we find that there is exploitation, can we find that there is prostitution and if you find that there is prostitution and exploitation if you can find those things then you must look at that aspect of it as opposed to sending back those Spanish women who are here to take our men. So lets talk about it plainly but let’s also send the message that the laws are on the books but we have to be the ones to implement.”
Tikkun Olam has been able to carry out their outreach programs through funding from REDTRASEX, a network of women sex workers of Latin America and the Caribbean.