As I fumbled with my fancy new camera trying to sneak a picture of a 200 pound, 50+ year-old white man holding a teen Dominican girl, the “uh-oh feeling” reiterated to me that all you need to know, you learned in kindergarden. With that simple feeling, I struggled to believe in this relationship, or the pretense of one.
It is very easy to say, “it’s none of my/our business,” “it’s every woman’s choice,” or “there will always be a demand and it’s a way to generate income.” However, the slippery slopes that are those arguments often overlook the complexities of the sex industry.
The Dominican Republic is statistically the 4th largest “exporter” of prostitutes in the world behind Brazil, Thailand and the Philippines, and ranks in the top two for sex tourism.² “While laws prohibit sex with those under age 18, prostitution is neither illegal nor legal in the Dominican Republic. And although it is practiced openly and widely accepted as legal by police, the legal gray area leaves women powerless.” ¹ An article on the Dominican Republic’s DR1 website, ironically framed by wet t-shirts and ads for Dominican Cupid, describes the high prostitution rates, criticizes the ‘choices’ of these women, and describes many of the causes of these staggering statistics in the tropical paradise.
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First and foremost, the Dominican Republic suffers from a very high poverty rate. Over 25% of the Dominican population is said to be living below the poverty line. Educational standards are very low and the majority of people living in the campo (countryside) stop attending school at a young age. The adult literacy rate is a low 87.8 percent. For most, there is little or no opportunity. Unemployment is at a staggering 17% and many, who do have jobs, work for very