Sex to go in T&T - prostitutes delivered to your door

Sex sells and pros­ti­tu­tion is one of the world’s old­est pro­fes­sions.

In T&T pros­ti­tu­tion is one of the coun­try’s most thriv­ing black-mar­ket in­dus­tries.

In this Guardian Me­dia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we take a look at this hid­den in­dus­try, which as it turns out, is not that hid­den at all.

Ac­cord­ing to Google Trends, in 2018 T&T is list­ed as third world­wide for the most “porn” search­es.

From 2011 to 2016, T&T was num­ber one on that list.

In 2017, the coun­try slipped in­to the num­ber two spot and then to num­ber three in 2018.

The is­land’s ob­ses­sion with porn may be dwin­dling, but this may on­ly be be­cause sex for mon­ey is so much more eas­i­ly avail­able as un­scrupu­lous “busi­ness peo­ple” take ad­van­tage of the thou­sands of Venezue­lans flee­ing the eco­nom­ic and po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in their home­land.

Years ago, “clients” found women in broth­els across the coun­try.

Al­though that part of the in­dus­try still thrives, “pimps” are now mak­ing pros­ti­tutes more ac­ces­si­ble than ever.

Thin­ly-veiled ad­ver­tise­ments for pros­ti­tutes are in every news­pa­per, some even with the rates at­tached.

Guardian Me­dia called sev­er­al of the num­bers list­ed for “mas­sages”, and with­out hes­i­ta­tion, the men that an­swered the calls of­fered their prices, with one man even of­fer­ing to and send­ing 23 pho­tos of Venezue­lan women that prospec­tive clients to choose from.

The im­ages showed women in lin­gerie, in provoca­tive pos­es flash­ing huge smiles.

Asked about the cost, he said, “It’s $900 an hour for one per­son and $1,300 an hour for a three­some.”

He promised that he could bring the “girls” to any­where in the coun­try that the client want­ed.

“I will drop her and wait,” he said.

He did not at­tempt to con­ceal that the ser­vice he was of­fer­ing was pros­ti­tu­tion and not the “mas­sage par­lour” ser­vice list­ed in the ad­ver­tise­ment.

An­oth­er “mas­sage par­lour” of­fered “nice Span­ish” for $500 an hour.

But it’s not just women that are be­ing of­fered up like meat at a poul­try shop.

In track­ing a post­ing for a male do­ing body mas­sages, Guardian Me­dia was told that the “masseuse” was avail­able for house calls and mas­sages on­ly would cost $300 an hour. When asked what could be added on, he replied, “Any­thing you want, for $100 more.”

He even promised to throw in an ex­tra half hour of his time for free.

There are al­so ads tar­get­ing gay men, with the promise of “good times” for $300 an hour. The meet­ing place was list­ed as a ho­tel in Princes Town. When Guardian Me­dia reached the num­ber list­ed, the man who an­swered con­firmed the ser­vice was for gay men but said he could get “any­one” a client wants.

Venezue­lan women need help

“They told me that I would get work as a wait­ress, but now they force me to have sex with five men in one night.”

These are the words of an 18-year-old Venezue­lan woman who is cur­rent­ly be­ing forced to pros­ti­tute her­self by a “busi­ness­man” who of­ten abus­es her. She has been in the coun­try for two months.

She is not iden­ti­fied for her safe­ty, but her plight has been re­ferred to the Counter Traf­fick­ing Unit (CTU), the unit of the Trinidad and To­ba­go Po­lice Ser­vice that can res­cue her and bring charges against the man who is forc­ing her in­to this lifestyle.

“He mis­treats me, and I have been abused by some clients,” she said. “I do not get any mon­ey, please I need help.”

An­oth­er Venezue­lan woman, flee­ing her home­land came to T&T to work and send mon­ey back to her fam­i­ly.

This 22-year-old woman ad­mits she was not forced to be a pros­ti­tute, but she is seek­ing help to get out of the lifestyle.

“I came with a friend to Trinidad three months ago be­cause I need to help my fam­i­ly. They do not force me to be a pros­ti­tute.”

She said she has sex with up to four men in one night and is paid $300 per en­counter. But her “clients” and em­ploy­ers of­ten are abu­sive to­wards her.

“Some­times they mis­treat me, and I have been abused by clients, I need some help.”

CTU Re­sponse

Counter-Traf­fick­ing Unit (CTU) head Alana Wheel­er says while pros­ti­tu­tion it­self is no longer il­le­gal, it is il­le­gal for any­one to prof­it from “com­mer­cial sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion.”

In an emailed re­sponse to ques­tions, Wheel­er wrote, “Note that while pros­ti­tu­tion is not recog­nised as a crim­i­nal of­fence in T&T, sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion or sex traf­fick­ing of adults and mi­nors is a crim­i­nal of­fence un­der the TiPs Act Chap­ter 12:10. From the TiPs Act, the fol­low­ing are al­so con­sid­ered to be traf­fick­ing

e) keep­ing a per­son in a state of servi­tude in­clud­ing do­mes­tic and sex­u­al servi­tude;

(f) child pornog­ra­phy;

(g) the ex­ploita­tion of the pros­ti­tu­tion of an­oth­er;

(h) en­gag­ing in any oth­er form of com­mer­cial sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion, in­clud­ing, but not lim­it­ed to, pimp­ing, pan­der­ing, procur­ing, prof­it­ing from pros­ti­tu­tion and main­tain­ing a broth­el.”

Wheel­er ex­plained that the ex­ploita­tion or the pros­ti­tu­tion of oth­ers means one per­son get­ting mon­ey or oth­er ben­e­fits from the pro­vi­sion of sex­u­al ser­vices for mon­ey.

Wheel­er pro­vid­ed sta­tis­tics from 2013 to 2017.

The da­ta shows that over those five years, 32 cas­es of sex traf­fick­ing have been iden­ti­fied in T&T.

“T&T na­tion­als have been charged in all these mat­ters,” Wheel­er said.

“In 2013 (year of procla­ma­tion of TiPs Act Chap­ter 12:10)—eight cas­es of sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion (adult fe­males from Colom­bia, Venezuela, Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic), in 2014—three adult fe­male Venezue­lans for sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion, 2015—sev­en adult fe­males for sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion (Venezue­lans, Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic) and one fe­male child for sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion.

In 2016—one adult fe­male and one mi­nor for sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion (for­eign na­tion­als.) In 2017 – ten adult fe­males and one mi­nor fe­male (Venezue­lans and TT na­tion­als.)”

Wheel­er said the CTU mon­i­tors pos­si­ble cas­es of sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion by work­ing with oth­er arms of law en­force­ment.

“We al­so re­spond to and in­ves­ti­gate all re­ports made via our hot­line and from all state and non-state stake­hold­ers (po­lice, im­mi­gra­tion, for­eign em­bassies, the pub­lic, etc). CTU has in­ves­ti­gat­ed re­ports of child pornog­ra­phy at schools in T&T.”

The US De­part­ment of State of­fice to mon­i­tor and com­bat Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons, in their 2018 Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons Re­port states that over the past five years T&T is a “des­ti­na­tion, tran­sit and source coun­try for adults and chil­dren sub­ject­ed to sex traf­fick­ing and forced labour.”

The re­port notes that women and girls from the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic, Venezuela and Colom­bia are of­ten lured to the coun­try with of­fers of le­git­i­mate em­ploy­ment and then traf­ficked and forced to work in broth­els and clubs.

It goes on to note, “Be­cause of de­te­ri­o­rat­ing eco­nom­ic con­di­tions in their home coun­try, Venezue­lans are par­tic­u­lar­ly vul­ner­a­ble. LGBTI per­sons are vul­ner­a­ble to sex traf­fick­ing. Many traf­fick­ing vic­tims en­ter the coun­try legal­ly via Trinidad’s in­ter­na­tion­al air­port, while oth­ers ap­pear to en­ter il­le­gal­ly via small boats from Venezuela, which is on­ly sev­en miles off­shore. Cor­rup­tion in po­lice and im­mi­gra­tion has in the past been as­so­ci­at­ed with fa­cil­i­tat­ing pros­ti­tu­tion and sex traf­fick­ing.”

The re­port states that while T&T’s does not meet the min­i­mum stan­dards for the elim­i­na­tion of traf­fick­ing, it has made in­creas­ing ef­forts over the past few years.

The re­port notes that T&T’s 2011 Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons Act crim­i­nalised sex and labour traf­fick­ing and in­tro­duced penal­ties of 15 years to life in prison and no less than $500,000 for those found guilty un­der this Act.

How­ev­er, from 2011 to present, al­though 14 peo­ple have been charged un­der the Act, no one has been con­vict­ed as all the cas­es are still pend­ing be­fore the court.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the CTU in­ves­ti­gat­ed 38 pos­si­ble cas­es of traf­fick­ing in 2017, 46 cas­es in 2016 and 53 cas­es in 2015.

The re­port states the CTU, po­lice, health, labour and im­mi­gra­tion de­part­ments co­or­di­nat­ed on 20 joint an­ti-traf­fick­ing op­er­a­tions on “sus­pect­ed broth­els.”

Al­so, the re­port said the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al’s of­fice is in the plan­ning stages for a new in­tel­li­gence-led task force to tack­le hu­man traf­fick­ing. The new task force is sup­posed to have in­put from po­lice, the de­fence force, the Strate­gic Ser­vices Agency and the CTU.

How you can re­port traf­fick­ing for sex

Wheel­er says once a mem­ber of the pub­lic makes a re­port of sus­pect­ed hu­man traf­fick­ing for sex, the CTU can pro­vide sus­pect­ed vic­tims with tem­po­rary care and reg­u­larised im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

She said the pub­lic could re­port sus­pect­ed cas­es and out­lined the CTU’s re­sponse to these re­ports.

“Once a re­port is made to the CTU, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ini­ti­at­ed with state­ments be­ing tak­en from the po­ten­tial/pos­si­ble vic­tim(s) and wit­ness­es. We need a vic­tim’s state­ment in or­der to pur­sue an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that would lead to charges be­ing laid. Wit­ness­es to the crime can al­so pro­vide state­ments. Vic­tims and wit­ness­es can choose to co-op­er­ate or not co­op­er­ate since this is a vol­un­tary process. The po­ten­tial vic­tim/wit­ness is in­formed of the process and if a for­eign na­tion­al, they are pro­vid­ed with TEM­PO­RARY care and reg­u­larised im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus dur­ing the course of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The Of­fice of the DPP is con­sult­ed at all times and will in­struct on charges, if any, to pre­ferred.”

If you know of any­one who is be­ing ex­ploit­ed for pros­ti­tu­tion or traf­ficked for sex, you can pro­vide in­for­ma­tion anony­mous­ly/con­fi­den­tial­ly by call­ing the CTU hot­line 800-4288 (4CTU), send­ing an e-mail or speak­ing di­rect­ly to a CTU of­fi­cer.

What the law says

The amend­ed Sex­u­al Of­fences Act, 2012, states:

17. A per­son who—

(a) (Delet­ed by Act No. 12 of 2012);

(b) pro­cures an­oth­er for pros­ti­tu­tion, whether or not the per­son pro­cured is al­ready a pros­ti­tute, ei­ther in Trinidad and To­ba­go or else­where; or

(c) pro­cures an­oth­er to be­come an in­mate, whether or not the per­son pro­cured is al­ready an in­mate else­where, of or to fre­quent a broth­el ei­ther in Trinidad and To­ba­go or else­where,

is guilty of an of­fence and is li­able on con­vic­tion to im­pris­on­ment for 15 years.

18. A per­son who—(a) by threats or in­tim­i­da­tion pro­cures an­oth­er to have sex­u­al in­ter­course with any per­son ei­ther in Trinidad and To­ba­go or else­where; or

(b) by de­cep­tion pro­cures an­oth­er to have sex­u­al in­ter­course with any per­son ei­ther in Trinidad and To­ba­go or else­where; or

(c) ap­plies, ad­min­is­ters to or caus­es to be tak­en by any per­son any drug, mat­ter or thing with in­tent to stu­pe­fy or over­pow­er that per­son so as there­by to en­able any oth­er per­son to have sex­u­al in­ter­course with that per­son, is guilty of an of­fence and is li­able on con­vic­tion to im­pris­on­ment for 15 years.

19. (1) A per­son who de­tains an­oth­er against that oth­er’s will—

(a) in or up­on any premis­es with in­tent that the per­son de­tained may have sex­u­al in­ter­course with any per­son; or

(b) in any broth­el,

is guilty of an of­fence and is li­able on con­vic­tion to im­pris­on­ment for 10 years.

- by Sharlene Rampersad

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