The global coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for many different people. One group who has been significantly impacted is sex workers. Around the world, sex workers have struggled to make "the new normal" work for them. This week's Sex Stories We Love travels around the globe to shed light on this hardship and challenges faced by sex workers.

Trans Sex Worker Struggles in Rio

"If I don't have sex I'll die of hunger." I don't normally take complete headlines from the news I share, but this stark and devastating quote is one of the most tragic I've ever read. Not only is Brazil a very challenging place for a trans person to live, but the added pressure brought on by COVID-19 make day-to-day survival a struggle. Sex workers can receive some small social aid, but with no customers on the street, it is becoming more and more difficult to get by. Given that the Brazilian governing is very conservative, this is unlikely to change any time soon. As is often the case for marginalized communities, more support comes from within.

Dangerous Times for Sex Workers

Sex workers in Kenya are also feeling the challenge of day-to-day survival and security. Violence against sex workers in Kenya have risen dramatically since the onset of the pandemic. As COVID-19 cases have risen, so to has the blame on sex workers. In some communities, sex workers are being scapegoated for the growing spread of the virus. And in some tragic cases, the violence has led to murder. To many, sex workers have long been considered disposable humans. Violence against sex workers is a grotesque problem raging across the world. Coronavirus is just the latest "reason" given for these hideous acts.

Community Is Key

Remember the idea that help and survival for the sex work community often comes from within? The work of the Miluska Life and Dignity network in Lima, Peru is providing essential frontline help to the sex worker community by banding together to cook meals for sex workers and their families. Peru has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and despite sex work being legal, emergency lockdown orders are preventing sex workers from earning money. Just as in Brazil and Kenya, many of the sex workers affected in Peru already live in poverty. They aren't able to pivot to online sex work, as has been the case in other countries. Relying on community is a life-saver.

Go-Go No Go?

Thailand is a country that is, for better or worse, synonymous with sex work. The clubs and brothels of Bangkok are a fixture of sex tourism. Will such an area ever re-open? Will countries that take a prudent, conservative approach to reopening to foreign visitors ever thrive again? Most importantly,, what will happen to the thousands of people who work in Thailand's sex industry? There is no denying that the country reaps significant financial benefit from the sex tourism industry. Will the country that permitted such a reputation to grow support sex workers who now struggle to survive? As the world adjusts to "the new normal," take heed of which countries helped their sex work communities when you begin to make your own future travel plans.

Undocumented and Denied

One country that is experiencing significant sex worker community support as well as some support from the government is Bangladesh. Different organizations are helping the country's sex workers with food and mental health support. And some governmental assistance has come to brothels and advocacy groups. However, one unfortunate circumstance that is not unique to the pandemic situation has also come to the forefront. Some government assistance is tied to having a national identity card. Being undocumented is a frequent concern of sex workers around the world because governments can't look past regulations to see the humans who are in need of help. In desperate times, such as these, we can only hope that some jurisdictions will become less stringent and become more helpful.

The Swiss Model?

Finally, despite the need for sex workers to begin earning money, is it safe for sex work to resume? Switzerland believes it is time to allow sex work and is implementing some guidance to keep workers and clients safe. Are they enough? Are they needed?

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