After spending a month sledging, picking, and shoveling away the rubble and debris that still covers Leogane, Haiti my partner and I decided to have a brief vacation in the Dominican Republic. We had come for the relaxing beaches, the old colonial streets where Sir Francis Drake himself had stumbled drunkenly, but most of all for running water and a real bed. Although many other NGO workers in Haiti cross the border into the Dominican Republic, we weren’t the only tourists sipping mojitos. The DR may be known for its white sand beaches, finely made cigars, and top quality rum but many more people visit for the lavish sex vacations that the country has to offer.
Despite the fact that the Dominican Republic is a staunchly Catholic country, sex tourism is a big business and you don’t have to look hard to find it. Sex work is technically legal as long as it is performed independently by legal adults. In practice the law appears to be much more hazy. While 3rd party profit is illegal, it’s very simple to book a sex vacation at an all inclusive resort. A simple search query for sex vacations in the Dominican Republic will bring up numerous results for package deals that include multiple companions, boxes of cigars, and alcoholic beverages delivered continuously to your room. Some resorts will gladly arrange for you greeted at the airport by a personal driver and several women for the drive. Bar and club owners routinely arrange and negotiate trysts for their foreign patrons without police interference. On the other hand, sex workers hustling on the street or in bars are often arrested for loitering or obscene public behavior.
It is estimated that well over 1.5 million people will travel to the Dominican Republic primarily for sex tourism and that number is not limited to heterosexual men. Single females, couples, and LGBTQ tourists can and do have their erotic desires fulfilled in increasing numbers. Although the standard of living in the Dominican Republic is, as a whole, higher than that of its neighbor Haiti it still struggles with poverty, education, and employment opportunities contributing to the complexity and controversy of sex tourism.
[Image by Jens JÃ¤pel from Wiki Creative Commons]