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Excluded from Covid relief and battling to survive, sex workers turn to the web

20 February 2021 10:32 AM
Tags:
Sex Workers
Sex work
decriminalise sex work

The calls to decriminalise sex work are growing louder in SA amid the Covid-19 pandemic which has left sex workers across the country out in the cold.

Weekend Breakfast host Sara-Jayne King spoke to two sex workers from the advocacy group Sonke Gender Justice who say they are battling to survive the restrictions imposed under the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown.

Sex workers have suffered a drastic loss of income due to the limiting Covid-19 curfew, loss of paying clients, and frequent police raids.

They do not qualify for government relief and the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of the ongoing fight to decriminalise the profession.

Many sex workers are unable to pay rent, buy food, support dependents or afford chronic medication.

Connie Mathe, who is a sex worker and mother of three, says many workers in the industry have turned to webcam services during the lockdown - but the space is highly competitive.

RELATED: If sex work in SA is illegal, why is Sars taxing sex webcam industry?

At the same time, sex workers are targeted by police on the streets while brothel owners and other properties exploit them for money.

Connie has been arrested during the lockdown. She says the decriminalisation of sex work will give her freedom to work and recover from the current economic hardship that she and many others are facing.

Two of my kids are in private school... R250 is nothing... The only thing I'm asking from the government is decriminalisation. I just need freedom to do my work. I'm not disturbing anyone.

Connie Mathe, Sex worker and coordinator at Sonke Gender Justice

The nature of the job we're doing is not recognised by labour laws... You can't open a bank account... You save money at home and it's totally finished but the pandemic is still ongoing.

Connie Mathe, Sex worker and coordinator at Sonke Gender Justice

Now we are doing a lot more internet webcam [services] but there is a lot of competition that is happening...The streets are not safe.

Connie Mathe, Sex worker and coordinator at Sonke Gender Justice

Last year, a group of advocacy organisations created a crowdfunding initiative for sex worker allies to donate directly to those who may need emergency financial relief to be able to afford basic living needs.

Nosipho Vidima, a sex worker and rights specialist at Sonke Gender Justice, says the money was used up after it was distributed in the form of vouchers for essential goods.

Vidima says the Covid-19 pandemic shows the extent of how marginliased sex workers are in the South African economy.

Decriminalisation is needed now more than ever... The government is suppressing people that are playing into the economic scene... The call for decriminalisation is much louder, it's much clearer and more evident by the pandemic itself.

Nosipho Vidima, Sex worker and rights specialist at Sonke Gender Justice

Give us decriminalisation so that sex workers can pay into the UIF, so that sex workers can be recognised as workers in future and can access the services that are available to every other employee.

Nosipho Vidima, Sex worker and rights specialist at Sonke Gender Justice

Listen to the in-depth discussion on Weekend Breakfast with Sara-Jayne King:




20 February 2021 10:32 AM
Tags:
Sex Workers
Sex work
decriminalise sex work

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