SEX TOURISM ON HISPANIOLA

A digital research project exploring the history of sex tourism in Haiti and the Dominican Republic
and the ways in which sex tourism on both sides of the island influences and is influenced by
Tourism, Health, State Action, Activism.

CONCEPT

Inspired by the idea to investigate the history and current state of sex work on Hispaniola, our group decided to focus on sex tourism as a way of narrowing our topic and exploring how both countries on the island interact with one another and with foreign powers.

We split our research into four segments: Tourism, Health, State Action, and Activism.

We knew early on that sex tourism industry on Hispaniola would be very tied to the more general tourism industry, and so was born our Tourism category of research.

We found that sex tourism on the island intersects greatly with issues of public health, particularly regarding HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, and decided to dedicate one segment of our research to Health.

We wanted to explore the ways in which political action, coming from both the State and non-State entities, interacts with the sex tourism industry and how these two groups interact with one another. We decided to focus one segment of research on State Action, and created a final category for Activism.

CHALLENGES

We encountered a number of challenges in researching and putting together this project. 

Our group first had to come up with a working definition of sex tourism, which we decided would involve travel (generally from the global North to the global South) with a primary goal of seeking sexual services from local sex workers. Our group decided to focus on the consensual exchange of sexual services for money or goods as opposed to trafficking or child abuse, though this distinction is sometimes hard to make, in more personal narratives as well as in legislation and legal documents.

One challenge that we encountered was in finding first-hand accounts of sex tourism from the perspective of the sex workers themselves; further research would ideally seek these narratives out more pointedly.

Legal documents from the Dominican Republic were often challenging to access online, as there is not a centralized website for primary documents of legislation. These documents rarely addressed sex tourism directly, and instead dealt with issues of trafficking, child sexual abuse, and transactional sex involving migrant workers. This was true for Haitian documents as well--official information from the Haitian government addressing sex tourism was particularly hard to find from the years following Baby Doc Duvalier's regime, which ended in 1986.

FURTHER INQUIRY

There are many ways in which our group believes that the research we've compiled could be expanded.

Our group focused mainly on North American tourists who purchase sexual services from Haitian and Dominican sex workers, but there are people of many different nationalities who travel to and engage in sex tourism on Hispaniola. We would be very interested to explore the role of these other countries, particularly European countries, in the sex tourism industry.

Following our research into the connections between sex tourism and health epidemics such as syphilis, venereal disease, and HIV/AIDS, we were interested to see how tied these epidemics are, in the public imagination, to sex workers as well as to homosexual sex and relationships. We would be interested to explore these associations further and perhaps problematize them with an investigation into STI transmission through heterosexual and/or non-commercial sex.

We would also be interested to explore dynamics of transactional sex between non-tourists in non-urban areas of the island, particularly concerning workers who provide sexual services in order to cross the Haitian-Dominican border.