COVID-19

NSWP are reporting on the impact of COVID-19 on sex workers around the world. We are documenting and reporting to international policy makers about human rights violations, and putting pressure on national policy makers to ensure the needs of sex workers are not ignored in this pandemic. We are also sharing stories of solidarity and strength within the sex worker community.

A map of the world covered in red umbrellas

Global Network of Sex Work Projects and UNAIDS joint statement

Sex workers must not be left behind in the response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic, as with other health crises, exposes existing inequalities and disproportionately affects people already criminalized, marginalized and living in financially precarious situations, often outside social protection mechanisms.

During these difficult times, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) and UNAIDS wish to draw attention to the particular hardships and concerns facing sex workers globally, and are calling on countries to ensure the respect, protection and fulfilment of sex workers’ human rights.  

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, sex workers all over the world are experiencing hardship, a total loss of income and increased discrimination and harassment. The criminalization of various aspects of sex work in the majority of countries serves to magnify the already precarious situation of sex workers in the informal economy. As sex workers and their clients self-isolate, sex workers are left unprotected, increasingly vulnerable and unable to provide for themselves and their families.

Sex worker-led organizations from all regions are reporting a lack of access to national social protection schemes and exclusion from emergency social protection measures being put in place for other workers, particularly where sex work is criminalized. Whenever and wherever possible, sex workers are responsibly self-isolating in response to governments’ calls. However, when they are excluded from COVID-19 social protection responses, sex workers are faced with putting their safety, their health and their lives at increased risk just to survive.

NSWP and UNAIDS are furthermore concerned at reports of punitive crackdowns against sex workers, resulting in the raiding of homes, compulsory COVID-19 testing, arrest and threatened deportation of migrant sex workers.

UNAIDS calls on countries to take immediate, critical action, grounded in human rights principles, to protect the health and rights of sex workers. Measures should include:

  • Access to national social protection schemes for sex workers, including income support schemes.
  • An immediate firewall between health services and immigration authorities in order to ensure that migrant sex workers can access health services.
  • Emergency financial support for sex workers facing destitution, particularly migrants who are unable to access residency-based financial support.
  • An immediate end to evictions and access to appropriate emergency housing for homeless sex workers.
  • Stopping raids on sex workers’ homes and sex work premises and ensuring that all measures to protect public health are proportionate.
  • An immediate halt to arrests and prosecutions for sex work-related activity, moving away from punitive measures and criminalization towards reaching and serving those most in need.  
  • An immediate end to the use of criminal law to enforce COVID-19-related restrictions, including forced COVID-19 testing and related prosecutions.
  • Automatic extensions on visas due to expire as travel restrictions tighten. Immigration detention systems must support detainees in safe accommodation.
  • The engagement of sex worker communities in responses—the meaningful involvement of sex worker-led organizations in emergency public health planning groups.

UNAIDS, as ever, stands ready to support countries in the implementation of the above recommendations.

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Latest News on COVID 19

This resource is a Community Guide to the Policy Brief: COVID-19 and Sex Workers/ Sex Worker-led Organisations. It provides an overview of the full Policy Brief, and provides key recommendations based on important lessons learned throughout the pandemic. 

You can download this 5-page resource above. This resource is available in English, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.

8th November 2021

As a criminalised population, sex workers have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, often living in precarious economic situations and excluded from social protection systems. This policy brief includes feedback directly from sex worker-led organisations and sex workers on their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, including its impact upon access to services, supplies of HIV treatment, and prevention commodities.

8th November 2021

The All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW), a collective of 5 million sex workers in India and a member of NSWP, last week wrote to the Delhi government demanding better access to vaccines for sex workers and transgender people.

The Hindustan Times reported on the letter, including quotes from AINSW.

15th June 2021

NSWP member organisation TAMPEP has called for sex workers to receive equal treatment with other professions. The statement comes as areas of Europe enter new periods of lockdown and sex workers continue to face extreme hardship as well as stigma and discrimination.

You can read an excerpt of the TAMPEP statement below or visit the TAMPEP website to read the full statement.

7th April 2021

The right to participation in public and political life is enshrined in international human rights law. Broadly, ‘public life’ refers to the realm in which political processes and activities occur. Participation in public life can be formal or informal, taking place from the grassroots to global levels. Through diverse forms of engagement in public life, sex workers have successfully influenced policies, programmes, practices, and discussions which affect their lives.

15th March 2021