Category Archives: Gender Articles

SEX WORKERS IN JAMAICA – ‘The Dangers, The Thrills’ – MALE & FEMALE Sex Workers Speak About the Dangers & Challenges of the Trade

Sex work in Jamaica is taboo. Selling sex – prostitution, is illegal. There have been ongoing lobby from a human rights perspective for the repeal of the 18th century laws that make prostitution (selling of sex) and buggery illegal. However several men and women practice the illicit trade sometimes covertly, sometimes out in plain sight. Sex workers are rarely arrested for selling sex, however, based on their own admissions, it is a dangerous business.

Panos Caribbean Giving the Region’s Youth a Voice

Indi McLymont-Lafayette and Cossy Roosevelt at a recent Youth Journalism workshop in Haiti funded by The MacArthur Foundation (July 2011)

Andrea Downer, August 2011 – UNITED NATIONS has designated August 12th International Youth Day. The UN believes that on August 12th and EVERY day, youth should be able to participate in decision-making in their families, communities, and nations. Panos Caribbean has been assisting young people in the Caribbean to express themselves for 25 years in their own voices through the organization’s Youth Journalism programme which trains young people in basic journalism skills and assist them to articulate and advocate about issues that affect them through the media.

Our Youth Journalism programme aims to empower youth to advocate effectively on issues that affect them by utilizing the media. Panos’ Youth Journalism Programme “Our Own Voices — Youth Communicating Through the Media” targets young people aged 12 to 16 who are marginalized or vulnerable but possess strong leadership and communication skills. We then trained them to become effective communicators and youth advocates utilizing five interlinked approaches,” Executive Director of Panos Caribbean, Jan Voordouw explained.

According to Mr. Voordouw, Panos has established 16 youth journalism programmes in the Caribbean including in Jamaica, Haiti and St. Lucia over the past 25 years.

The group in St. Lucia recently produced two short videos with Public Service Announcements based on article 13 of the United Nations Conventions Rights of the Child which speaks to the rights of children to free speech and the ability to express themselves via various media as long as those rights do not infringe on the rights of others.

The PSAs were developed by the young people as part of their training programme which is being funded by the Commonwealth Foundation and Panos Global AIDS Programme (GAP).

Jean Claude Louis, a consultant with Panos Caribbean who manages the project in St. Lucia admits that child rights is an issue there. This is supported by the findings of a 2005 study by UNICEF on Child Vulnerability in Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

Jean Claude Louis, a consultant with Panos Caribbean who manages the project in St. Lucia admits that child rights is an issue there. This is supported by the findings of a 2005 study by UNICEF on Child Vulnerability in Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

The study was conducted during 2005 by the Governments of Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines with technical and financial assistance from UNICEF.

As part of the study, a random household survey of households in St. Lucia found that more than half of the children there were ‘at risk’. According to the study, the main risk factors were food insecurity (or poverty) followed by chronic illness of a parent.

Poverty is the major obstacle to accessing nominally free social services, including education and health care,” the study stated.

The study also found that the abuse of children – particularly sexual abuse, was a serious concern to many.

The issue is hugely complicated by a lack of data, by inhibitions and denial, and by a lack of capacity to protect victims and those at risk,” the study continued.

Physical abuse, including corporal punishment, was also a significant concern – particularly as it still forms part of the ‘tradition’ of schools, the judicial system and the home in St. Lucia. In addition, children with disabilities and children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS were found to be especially vulnerable despite the fact that very little was known about them and not enough was being done for them.

There were also concerns that more children were being drawn into crime and the trade in and use of drugs, particularly in St. Lucia and St. Vincent, due to a combination of poor quality education and lack of career prospects.

While that study was done five years ago, the issue is still sufficiently of concern in St. Lucia and other parts of the Caribbean. In May this year (2011) the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States held the first of a series of regional workshops with media in St. Lucia.

The series of workshops are aimed at raising the priority they give to children without compromising child protection rights and privileges.

Communications and Programming Coordinator at the Eastern Caribbean UNICEF Office, Lisa Mc Clean-Trotman welcomed the training noting that the current global economic downturn could make children more vulnerable to domestic violence and child labour.

During times of economic recession children’s stories which are soft news stories, tend to go on the back burner , but it’s also important to recognize that these are also times when children become more vulnerable to exploitation as parents and providers become stressed, Also parents might perhaps use children to help better economic conditions so more than ever this is the time when you need to be more vigilant about child protection issues and also to report them and raise awareness about them as well as to give children, their parents and guardians a voice,” she stated.

During the series of seminars throughout the OECS, the media houses will be looking at issues such as interviewing children, investigating, reporting and writing stories about abused children, legal guidelines on reporting on children in need of special protection as well as the convention on the rights of the child.

Recognizing that children and young people are best at articulating their concerns, Panos Caribbean is giving them the opportunity to do so. In these two videos the compelling voices of young people from St. Lucia defiantly states their rights according to the UN Convention. Please take a moment to listen.

SEX WORK, WHY WE DO IT

16 Jamaican Sex Workers tell their stories

By Andrea Downer

Panos Caribbean

La couverture d’une publication des Caraïbes de Panos: Témoignages oraux du livre jamaïquain d’ouvriers de sexe qui a été lancé par l’organisation le 24 Novembre 2010 à Kingston, Jamaïque. Le document de livre les expériences et les défis de 16 ouvriers jamaïquains de sexe, de 15 femelles et d’un mâle. La publication est disponible chez Panos Caribbean’s bureau de Kingston, Jamaïque.

Panos Caribbean, Kingston November 23, 2010: The stories tumble from lips clamped around cigarettes, legs hiked casually over the arms of chairs, eyes staring far into the distance, sometimes squinting as they struggled to remember the young girls and boy they once were with ordinary dreams before the lure of sex work and dancing under bright lights called them.


“When they told me that I would be paid for having sex, I kind of felt bad, because as a young girl growing up, your parents always talk about these things. But being an open minded person I thought ‘okay, I am going to give it a try.’ The first time I had to do it I was like, nervous. But knowing what I wanted and knowing it’s just for the money, I just went ahead and put the fear behind me.” - Apple (not her real name)

Apple said her gateway into sex work was via a news paper advertisement for masseuse to work at massage parlours.

Apple and 15 other Jamaican sex workers including one male told their stories of deception, exploitation, of flirting with the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and physical harm and their struggle with shame to Panos Caribbean. The oral testimonies, which are presented as first person accounts in a 48 page book, capture the emotions and the sometimes hellish conditions they are forced to work in just to make a living doing work that is an illegal activity in Jamaica.


Five key issues came to the fore in the publication, Oral Testimonies of Jamaican Sex Workers;

  • Push and pull factors of sex work
  • Gender issues
  • Working conditions of sex workers, including exploitation of employees, sexual abuse, pay, clientele
  • STIs and HIV/AIDS
  • The legalization of sex work, specifically, the implications of the existing Jamaican law which makes sex work illegal.

Human Trafficking

A sixth under pinning issue however is that of human trafficking in Jamaica. Some sex workers that told their stories to Panos Caribbean said they were told that they would not be required to have sex as part of the job, yet they were placed in situations where they were required and compelled to sell sex. However, most of them said they entered sex work because of the potential to make a lot of money quickly. But for some, their ‘dream’ jobs quickly turned hellish and many did not earn the big salaries they were promised. They said their pay dwindled due to numerous fees and penalties they were charged by the club and massage parlour owners before they were even paid.

“You can’t leave out of the building without their permission. You have to walk naked, you have to do everything that them tell you, everything them say you just have to do it, and if you don’t, they charge you for it. If you want to buy hair or lotion and things like that downtown, you have to beg someone to go. Or if them let you out them only let you go out for half hour. And if you don’t come back by the half hour or the hour them charge… You can’t normally go out as usual. You have to stay in. You can’t talk to anybody. If your child is sick you have to stay there, you can’t go home. I work in Portmore, but I am from Mobay. My daughter was sick and admitted in the hospital and me couldn’t leave to go to look for her. They said I have to finish two weeks before I can leave.” – Ann

The oral testimonies, which were collected over a four-year period, will be officially was officially launched on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at Altamont Court Hotel in New Kingston, Jamaica.

Representatives of the Sex Workers Association of Jamaica, The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities, The Ministry of Health (HIV Unit), The National Taskforce Against Trafficking in Persons and the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) attended the launch and spoke on the issue of sex work in Jamaica and its implications for public health as well as the importance of advocacy for sex workers and how that can be balanced with the legal implications of the activity.

The book also highlights recommendations for follow-up action by various agencies and stakeholders in order to effectively address some of the issued highlighted by the sex workers.

“We are anticipating that the book will spark public dialogue and debate which will help get the voices of these vulnerable women to the policymakers,” said Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, Regional Director of Media, Community and Environment at Panos Caribbean. “We hope that the recommendations made in the book will be acted upon so that we can see some positive action from this.”

23/11/2010 – End

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