COVID-19 Reveals Effect of Sex Worker Discrimination, Report Says

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—A new report by the advocacy group Open Democracy throws light on how sex workers have fared during the coronavirus shutdowns, depending on the differing policies of governments from country to country. For example, as has reported, the Netherlands has forced sex workers to wait until September to get back to work, even as other businesses including hair salons have reopened. But in Switzerland, sex work was allowed to resume on June 6, even as other “close contact” activities such as ballroom dancing and judo must wait at least one more month. “While COVID-19 has brought the marginalization of sex workers into sharp focus,” wrote Open Democracy’s Lynzi Armstrong on Tuesday, “the responses that have occurred are reflective of a much longer history of exclusion, where the laws surrounding sex work—and how sex work is conceptualized—shape how sex workers are treated in society.” Armstrong highlights New Zealand as an example of how government policies that have decriminalized sex work since 2003 allowed sex workers to access government relief programs. But in Scotland and Ireland, where sex workers remain subject to arrest, advocacy groups have fought hard to win any relief at all for the struggling sex workers. In Scotland, the government allocated only £60,000 (about $75,000) in a relief package for sex workers—and the funds may be distributed only through EMCOMPASS, a network of groups that define sex work as “violence against women.” Umbrella Lane and Scotpep, the two sex worker advocacy groups that lobbied the Scottish government since March to provide aid, may not access the relief funds. “This is a tiny amount of money and the reality is that none of it will go to people involved in sex work. It will pay for more people to answer phones for services that few people will take up,” said Umbrella Lane founder Anastacia Ryan, an academic at Glasgow University. Conditions are similar in Ireland where the leading sex worker rights group, Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, has been shut out of government funding programs on the grounds that it defines sex work as “work.” Instead, the group Ruhama—which defines sex work as “violence against women”—has been placed in charge of distributing the small amount of government relief aid. “COVID-19 has bared the deeply entrenched inequities that impact sex workers globally, imbued in laws, policies and discourses surrounding sex work,” the Open Democracy report stated. “However, in shining a light on these injustices it also offers possibilities for positive change. There is an opportunity to reflect on how laws impact sex workers, the messages policies send, and consider how the situation could be different.” Photo By Bojan Cvetanovi? / Wikimedia Commons 

written by: Lawrence Avery

source: COVID-19 Reveals Effect of Sex Worker Discrimination, Report Says | AVN