The government and the United States are not reading from the same page when it comes to human trafficking. Every year in which the United States grades Guyana’s anti-human trafficking efforts, there is a diplomatic row over the grade mark.
This year is no different, and the subject minister has made it clear that while there has been an improvement in Guyana’s ranking, the report is nonsensical. We have heard that before.
The government must know by now that these ratings and rankings are really tools by which the United States seeks to control internal policies of governments. So we have a human trafficking index which if it reaches a certain threshold can invite sanctions against the defaulting nation. There is also a transparency index which measures the openness of the economy. If the government were tomorrow to decide to ban all public contracts, thereby removing the risk of corruption, it would still be accused of lacking transparency.
Some governments, of course, simply ignore these reports produced by agencies of the United States. Venezuela, for example, does not care two hoots about what the United States has to say about human trafficking in their country. If the United States wants to impose sanctions on Venezuela, that country knows that it can withstand these measures and retaliate with it own sanctions.
Guyana does not have the same liberty. Some of our leaders are concerned that instead of just trade sanctions, Guyana may be subject to visa sanctions and this will affect them. So that when the first Human Trafficking Report came out, Guyana was afraid of US sanctions and so rushed to pass human trafficking legislation.
It seems, however, that Guyana and the US are not on the same page when it comes to human trafficking, or rather, Guyana is not aware of some of the things that constitute human trafficking.
Instead of therefore asking the US to produce the evidence of incidents of human trafficking, the Guyana authorities should recognize the broad range of activities which can be considered as human trafficking.
If someone brings an interior resident to work in the city and that person complains about exploitation, that can be taken to be human trafficking.
At present, there are number of females working in bars in Guyana, and often these women are subject to harassment. Some men try to put their hands up these girls’ skirts. This is not only sexual abuse, but human trafficking.
There are women from the city who provide sexual services in the mining districts. Some of them may pretend that they are businesswomen, but never quite reveal the true nature of their business. This too can be human trafficking.
Guyanese women who are taken to Suriname to work and end up having to sell their bodies just to survive are considered as human trafficking victims. Even if you go voluntarily, once you are providing sexual services you may end up being considered as a victim of human trafficking.
The Guyanese authorities have to therefore understand what the United States considers as human trafficking and decide what action they will take.
In some instances, they have to drop the pretence that persons are not being prostituted in Guyana. It is public knowledge that there are private clubs in Guyana in which Brazilian women strip naked, dance around a pole and provide sexual services. This is public knowledge and some of these places are frequented by some prominent businessmen, unknown to their marriage partners.
It also rumoured that there are orgies at private residences and joints, also said to involve foreign women who are paid for their services. These things are also part of human trafficking as defined by the United States, and therefore if the Guyanese authorities are serious about improving human trafficking, they would ensure that laws are passed outlawing some of the lewd things that are taking place at these private clubs, many of which are open to the public and therefore not fully private at all.
The activities of some of these private clubs are degrading to our women, and it is strange that none of the women’s activists or groups have called for these joints to be shut down.
But just the mention of casinos and there is an uproar from sections of the society who seem to give the impression that they do not know about the pole dancing and striptease and prostitution that is happening.
Wake up Guyana! Take action against human trafficking before the United States shuts this country down!