Added: Rani Vollmer - Date: 29.09.2021 14:32 - Views: 29151 - Clicks: 1961
With social distancing rules in place and strip clubs and brothels closed, sex workers around the world have seen their incomes disappear almost overnight as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fearing for their livelihoods, as well as their health, some are offering services online to keep their business going, while others are turning to charities for help. Estelle Lucas has worked as an escort for the past 10 years in Melbourne, carefully building relationships with her clients.
But the spread of Covid and the need for social distancing has prompted a ban on sex work, leaving her worried those efforts will go to waste. That doesn't work in my industry. We need to build intimacy and that's just not possible in the current environment. Before the coronavirus outbreak, Estelle says she was earning an above-average income, and had hoped to soon pay off the mortgage on her home in Melbourne's inner suburbs.
Now nearly all her income has been lost. She has tried to adapt by moving her business online, but says that cannot replace physical contact. Some of my clients don't even really know how to use a smartphone. While the regional government has outlined a clear roadmap to reopening restaurants and cafes, there has been no plan for the sex industry. That uncertainty, coupled with the many unknowns surrounding the virus itself, has left many sex workers with deep anxiety. She also fears for her clients' health. Financial assistance from the Australian government is available to those who have lost their income because of the Covid crisis, but to qualify for the payments workers need to be able to show they have been paying tax - something that unregistered sex workers including migrants and trans people, often won't be able to do.
It's a problem facing sex workers in dozens of countries around the world, according to Teela Sanders, a criminology professor at the University of Leicester.
That's left sex worker collectives and advocacy groups calling for members of the public to donate to emergency funds. Some sex workers have been forced to continue working, risking hefty fines or exposure to the virus.
So this affects the whole extended family," Prof Sanders says. Niki Adams from the English Collective of Prostitutes echoes that view. She told the BBC most sex workers in the UK are mothers and if they are continuing to work, it is because they are desperate for money. But some sex workers find themselves unable to keep working - even if they would choose to. In Daulatdia brothel in Bangladesh, police guard the entrance, preventing customers from entering. It is one of the world's biggest brothels, a shanty town made up of tin sheds and narrow alleyways that is home to 1, women and their children.
The brothel has been closed since March, leaving many of the women struggling to buy essential items and relying on donations from charities. Nazma supports three children who live with her sister back in her village. She came to the brothel 30 years ago when she was just seven. Although she needs money, she worries about the dangers of working during the pandemic. We'd be scared to go to bed with our clients anyway, as we don't know who is affected," she says.
Daulatdia sits on the banks of the Padma River, near a major ferry terminal. It is the main transport hub that connects the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka with the country's southern districts.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, thousands of truck drivers would pass through the area every day, delivering agricultural products and other goods to Dhaka. Many of the women and children who live in the brothel are victims of trafficking. While the Bangladeshi government and local aid organisations have delivered some emergency funds to the women, Srabanti says it hasn't been enough and some women received nothing at all.
In early May, Srabanti organised a private aid delivery, distributing packets of basic supplies for each of the 1, women registered at the brothel. Reduced access to healthcare services is an issue facing sex workers globally, according to Prof Sanders. The problem is particularly acute in areas where there is high demand for regular antiviral drugs from those living with HIV. Prof Sanders is working with a team in Nairobi to develop an "Uber-style" app that will enable sex workers to order medication using their phones and have it delivered.
Back in Daulatdia brothel, another sex worker who didn't want to be named is returning from a trip to see her daughter, who lives in a nearby home for the children of sex workers. Even when the brothel reopens, it will take a long time for the industry to recover, she says. We might get infected from them. This fear of getting infected will come up all the time. Additional reporting by Salman Saeed.
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