Along with the moral reasons why he wishes to clamp down on “whorehouses”, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan is adamant that the prevalence of prostitution in Guyana is posing risks to the safety of Guyanese. He said that the trade provides additional worries for the security sector.
Just earlier today, the Minister, who has ambitions of becoming Guyana’s next Prime Minister, told Guyana Standard that he will “cut the profits” out of the prostitution trade.
Ramjattan said, “I know a lot of people may be lobbying for strip clubs but would you want your husband sneaking off to these whorehouses? No, you would not! It is unhealthy and immoral and I will cut the profits out of this trade.”
Over the last decade, prostitution has indeed become more prevalent in Guyana. While prostitution remains illegal, there are at least five strip clubs in Region Four, Demerara-Mahaica alone.
Ramjattan is the minister who enforced the 2:00am curfew which has been on the books since colonial times. However, many of these strip clubs remain open to the public beyond the 2:00am curfew. In fact, the strip clubs now serve as an “after party” spot. Some of the joints even have facilities to accommodate private transactions beyond what occurs on the stage.
The proprietors for these “illegal” joints are indeed recording profits and many of the young ladies under their employ, mostly foreigners, say that the activities allow them to provide for their dependents back home.
While speaking to Guyana Standard today, Ramjattan did not divulge details about the different techniques he plans to employ in order to be able to “cut the profits” out the trade. But, he made the main technique known. The Minister said that he is working with the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to ensure that it revokes the liquor license granted to strip joints.
That will address profits garnered from the sale of alcohol. But, profits will still be made from the required entry fees; money paid for exotic dances and then there are still the private transactions.
Ramjattan did not say how he plans to address those angles but he noted the Guyana Police Force is already playing a role in conducting raids.
The Minister said, “It is an extremely significant development that has come within Guyana and the indications are that many of these strippers are being present in these bars as result of labour and sexual exploitation. They come from very poor communities in Guyana and neighboring Spanish speaking countries. The last crack down we had, saw about 38 of them coming from Venezuela.”
Ramjattan said that the investigations carried out by the Anti-Trafficking-In-Persons Task Force suggest that most of the strippers are trafficked to Guyana.
However, he said that there are major stumbling blocks whenever attempts are made to prosecute.
The Minister noted, “One big problem is inadequate interpreters. Some of these girls speak Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch. Also, some of them do not want to give evidence against the bar owners.”
He continued, “And then you have other cases where the girls say that it is consensual; that they are just here to make a quick buck and help their families back home. They ask for a pardon and to be sent home. And that is a terrible situation to be in…”
The Minister said that there are also financial and administrative challenges. He explained that in the cases where the Task Force pursues prosecution, finding holding spaces is difficult.
“It is not conducive to keep them at the police officer’s area and it is expensive to put them up in hotels. We do not have the finances so we just end up deporting them. A lot of them come illegally and if we are to put them in prison then that adds to the overcrowding so it is something that is really bothersome to the security sector,” the Minister explained.
He said, “This is a business that also involves prostitution. …A lot of these big men go there and they say how they want to feel up these girls because they said they never eat a white meat yet and they pay a lot for the services. So it is all a trade of immorality and it is unhealthy for my country.”
Ramjattan told the Guyana Standard that he intends to ensure Guyana is transformed into a clean, safe society and the crackdown on strip clubs will remain part of that process.