For sex workers – especially those from marginalised communities such as single mothers, Black and people of colour, Roma, elderly, migrants, refugees, undocumented, trans, living with HIV, and people who use drugs or are homeless – things were already complicated to begin with. The spread of coronavirus and the clampdown on social interaction has made the situation worse.
Sex workers in European countries began to report falling numbers of clients as early as February. Now with cities instating curfews, some sex workers report brothels expelling them while others are being forced to work despite the circumstances. The blanket shutdown of bars, clubs, windows and red light zones has drastically limited the opportunities to generate income, and even sex workers working from home or doing house calls have reported a drop in business. What’s worse, the clients who remain have been using the pandemic to bargain down prices or to demand risker services, such as sex without a condom, for the same amount of money. Street workers must now accept clients they would have once refused for less money and under more precarious circumstances. Overall, the situation is critical.
Due to the stigmatised nature of sex work and its intersections with migration, poverty and precarity, most in our community cannot access the social benefits that would guarantee them a roof over their heads and a meal on their tables. The crisis has exacerbated existing problems and power dynamics, and for many #StayTheFuckHome is simply not a choice they can make. The price for not staying home is increased conflict with security forces. We hear every day about neighbours who have declared themselves vigilantes, monitoring private activities in residential buildings and targeting those who must break the rules to survive.