THE PRIESTS at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral have a legitimate concern.
It has to do with the behaviour of the sex workers who frequent Bay Street and Jemmotts Lane, The City.
These workers and their customers are using the church’s burial ground as a place to transact their business. Clearly they have no concern for the living and no fear of the dead as they have a surprising location.
There are other churches on Bay Street, notably St Paul’s Anglican and Bethel Methodist, but even without hearing from their priests or caretakers, it is doubtful they would encounter the same challenges as St Patrick’s.
Parts of Bay Street have long been a red light zone and it is obvious what is being traded after dark. The ladies of the night standing, sitting or slowly pounding the pavement, boldly advertise their business. Obviously, many people have been taking up the offers based on the complaints of Father Charles Dominique.
This situation is unlikely to change, whether or not there is an outcry from Bishop Jason Gordon, Fr Clement Paul, the sisters or other members of the church.
Even a plea from the Barbados Family Planning Association, which has its headquarters close to the area of soliciting, isn’t going to help.
And to think that the business of the sex workers is an illegal activity. Truth is we turn our heads, close our eyes and look the other way.
There is a bigger concern, which should not just focus on the women who work the area on a nightly basis, or for that matter how they and their customers dispose of used condoms.
It’s unlikely their business will disappear even if the police had a permanent presence on Lower Bay Street. This type of transactional trade is mobile and with mobile phones, well, all things are possible.
It should be about the safety of the workers and of their clients. It must also be about getting any of them having drug dependency problems the necessary treatment.
It would be an opportunity to do a detailed study on the ages of these sex workers, some of whom are long past their teenage years and some may even be well past 40.
It is about helping them to transition to other lines of work to support themselves and their families.
There are numerous risks in the sex workers industry. Using a graveyard, operating below the priest’s balcony or his residence are minor in the grand scheme of things.
The greatest worry must be sexually transmitted diseases – such as HIV, syphilis and gonorrhoea. At least some of them use condoms.
Perhaps it is a golden opportunity for the Family Planning Association to expand its social care services. It may be necessary to team with the YWCA, National Organisation of Women, Men’s Educational Support Association and other groups.
Someone should be checking in with these sex workers on a regular basis to know their concerns and offer guidance. This may include the proper disposal of condoms, soiled undergarments and other bits of clothing. These prostitutes must not become a nuisance to other people or their property.
As a country we must never support trafficking in persons, but we need to face up to reality and recognise that sex workers are after all, human beings, who have been involved in a well established business, which most people may detest.
■ Eric Smith is The Nation’s Editor-in-Chief. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org