Impact of Covid-19 on Sex Workers: Critical Overview
The coronavirus pandemic and the implementation of social distancing rules and closure of strip clubs and brothels have led to a significant decline in the income of sex workers worldwide. With fears for their livelihoods and health, sex workers have been left with no option but to either offer services online or turn to charities for assistance. In Melbourne, Estelle Lucas, an escort with ten years of experience, faces a bleak future due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The ban on sex work has left her apprehensive that her carefully built relationships with clients will go to waste. She is concerned that if she does not work for six months, people will forget her. Estelle, who had been earning an above-average income, had hoped to pay off her mortgage soon. However, she has lost almost all her income, and moving her business online cannot replace the physical contact necessary in her industry. Sex workers are experiencing anxiety due to uncertainty about the virus and lack of a government plan for reopening the industry.
The Australian government has announced financial assistance for those who have lost their income during the pandemic. However, to be eligible, workers must have paid taxes. This requirement is problematic for unregistered sex workers, including migrants and trans people, who cannot produce tax records. According to Teela Sanders, a criminology professor at the University of Leicester, governments worldwide have failed to provide social protection for sex workers, unlike self-employed individuals. Therefore, sex worker collectives and advocacy groups have called for public donations to emergency funds. The Las Vegas Sex Worker Collective has raised $19,300 (£15,680), while a coalition of support groups in Italy has raised almost €21,700 (£19,500) to assist sex workers.
Some sex workers have continued working despite the pandemic, risking hefty fines and exposure to the virus. In developing countries, sex workers are often the primary breadwinners for their extended families. Many sex workers are mothers and are working because they are desperate for money, according to Niki Adams from the English Collective of Prostitutes. However, some sex workers are unable to work even if they wish to do so.
In Bangladesh, the Daulatdia brothel has been closed since March, leaving the 1,300 women and their 400 children without any income. Nazma, who has been living in the brothel for 30 years, fears for her livelihood and the dangers of working during the pandemic. The women and children who live in the brothel are mainly trafficking victims who were kidnapped as children and sold to the brothel. While the Bangladeshi government and local aid organizations have delivered some emergency relief, the women still face a grim future.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on sex workers globally, with most of them facing economic uncertainty and anxiety due to the lack of government support. Sex workers are left with no choice but to adapt to the situation by offering services online or turning to charities for assistance. The requirement for tax records for financial aid is problematic for unregistered sex workers, migrants, and trans people. Moreover, some sex workers continue working despite the pandemic, while others are unable to do so. While the pandemic has highlighted the precarious conditions under which sex workers operate, it is essential to recognize and provide support for their human rights and welfare.