Paula-Mae Weekes

‘Hurdles to

be overcome’: Paula-Mae Weekes

Sexual slavery is rampant in Trinidad and Tobago, ­according to President Paula-Mae Weekes.

As T&T observes Emanci­pation Day today, the day marking the abolition of slavery, President Weekes, in her message, noted this country has a high demand for sex and prostitution, leading to the exploitation of Venezuelan women. “It is shameful, given the legacy of African enslavement, that reports of modern-day slavery are rampant in our nation,” Weekes said.

“A recent study bestowed upon Trinidad and Tobago the unenviable distinction of having the highest demand for sex and prostitution services in the region, with thousands of Venezuelan women being trafficked to this nation to be sold into sexual slavery,” she added.

President Weekes called for those involved in human trafficking to be brought to justice.

“As the first nation to officially commemorate the abolition of slavery, Trini­dad and Tobago must set the standard for upholding the rule of law and rejecting injustice and abuse. History cannot be allowed to repeat itself, and those who participate in the subjugation and enslavement of others must be confronted and brought to justice,” she said.

Weekes also noted the recent conversations surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, saying people of ­African descent still feel the effects of the slave trade ­today. “Although the institution of slavery was formally brought to an end on August 1, 1834, its social, political and economic repercussions continue to be felt both in ­Africa and by the African ­diaspora,” she stated.

“The treatment of ­Africans and their descendants has recently arisen as a topic of intense discussion, debate and protest, particularly in countries with a history of African enslavement and discriminatory legislation. While we in Trinidad and Tobago can take pride in our ethnic diversity, we cannot be blind to, or complacent about, addressing unresolved and deep-seated issues that belie our vaunted rainbow nature and undermine the values of our Republic. “The lessons of our violent past must produce in all of us an intolerance for bigotry, injustice and inequity, and a determination to cherish and defend the rights and dignity of all,” she said.

Reflecting on the meaning of Emancipation Day, President Weekes said it marks the end of “one of the most heinous and brutal chapters of human history”.

She said while the public celebrates the occasion, Emancipation Day should also serve as a reminder that there is still work to be done. “Let us not celebrate Emancipation Day 2020 as if emancipation has been altogether achieved, but rather use it as a stark reminder that there are hurdles yet to be overcome,” she said. • See Page 18

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