April 10, 2020
The Coronavirus is a Disaster for Sex Workers – We Need Resources!
Contact: Rachel West, US PROStitutes Collective 415 640-4250
Thousands of families in the US rely on the income from sex work to survive and have been thrown into a crisis by the coronavirus.
Most sex workers are mothers, primarily single mothers. This crisis came on top of a crisis in poverty and homelessness. Women and children make up 73% of the poor in the US, 1 in 25 families, and around three million children are in households living on $2 a day. Black, immigrant women and other women of color are the poorest of the poor. When welfare was cut, the number of women arrested for prostitution went up. Women are the fastest growing majority of people going to prison, and the majority of them are single mothers. Women and our children are the fastest growing population among the homeless.
Much sex work inevitably involves close personal contact so the self-isolation rules and the shelter-in-place order mean that sex workers, like many other workers, can’t work safely. Customer numbers have dropped to zero and there is no money coming in. Yet there is still rent to pay and families to feed.
Sex workers are deliberately excluded on moralistic grounds from the coronavirus $2 trillion bailout bill if their work is judged to be of a “prurient sexual nature”. (So selling weapons means you get a bailout but selling sex means you don’t.) Sex workers won’t get the cash payment of $1200 per person and $500 for each child like other workers, unless they have filed tax returns, which most cannot because of the illegality and stigma associated with their job. Sex workers are not eligible for unemployment compensation or sick pay because they are being denied status as workers.
So the US, which claims to be the richest country in the world, provides nothing for us, while sex workers in countries like Bangladesh and Thailand are getting emergency relief. In New Zealand, where sex work was decriminalized in 2003, sex workers are getting wage subsidy grants and are quickly being put on benefits by the government.
Instead of support sex workers are met with harassment and arrest by police with street based workers, trans, Black, immigrant and other women of color particularly targeted. Street sex work had increased during the Trump administration because of the overall increase in income inequality, and because laws like FOSTA/SESTA prevented women advertising and working inside.
Rachel West, founder of US PROStitutes Collective, commented:
“Sex workers are criminalized with no rights and therefore no safety net. How are women supposed to survive? Like other workers, we are forced to choose between earning an income and risking our and our loved ones’ health. Instead of support, we get criminalization.”
• Immediate financial support for sex workers in crisis.
• Sex workers to be recognized as workers and be eligible for the same benefits other workers will get in federal and state stimulus legislation and city relief efforts.
• Decriminalization of sex work and an immediate moratorium on arrests of sex workers.
• An end to children being taken from sex working mothers and put in foster care or adopted.
• We support demands for rent forgiveness; for vacant houses and hotel rooms to be made available for homeless people; for an increase in the social safety net including welfare, SNAP (food stamps), and free healthcare for all.
• We support the international demand for a care income. The coronavirus has made clear how the survival of our communities is entirely dependent on the work of caring for others, much of which is unpaid and not recognized. If we were paid for our caring work we would have the option of leaving prostitution. See statement from the Global Women’s Strike.
Issued by US PROStitutes Collective