COVID-19 Hurts by David Block
Sex Workers Face Tough Times During Pandemic
Updated May 27, 2020 3:17 pm ET
Like other businesses throughout the world, COVID-19 devastated the sex workers’ industry. A worse problem facing sex workers besides social distancing, is that they are not eligible for the stimulus package.
“It’s one of the few categories of businesses that are banned from receiving federal aid under the CARES Act,” said Rachel West spokeswoman for The U.S. Prostitutes Collective (USPROS).
According to West, 73 percent of poor people in the U.S. are women and children. She said a huge number of them are mothers who had no choice but to become prostitutes in order to feed their children and pay their rent. USPROS tries to help these people.
Traditionally, if a sex worker were raped or beaten up and then reported it to the police, not only could the officers refuse to help them, but they could also arrest them on the spot for doing something illegal.
“There is nothing violent about prostitution but because it is criminalized like drinking was in the days of prohibition, you are underground in a vulnerable situation where you can’t go to the police,” said West.
Prostitution is illegal throughout the U.S, except for certain parts of Nevada. However, sex workers in California scored a huge victory this year. On January 1, California passed SB 233, IMMUNITY FROM ARREST AND PROSECUTION WHEN REPORTING A CRIME:
if you report being a victim of or witness to a serious felony, including but not limited to, assault, robbery, kidnapping, domestic violence, extortion, human trafficking, sexual battery, or stalking, you cannot be arrested for the sex work or misdemeanor drug offense you were engaged in at or around the time of the crime. (Cited at https://www.aclusocal.org/en/know-your-rights/sex-worker-rights-california)
Traditionally, police put sex workers in the category, NHI – No Humans Involved.
NHI are crimes involving the murder or injury of sex workers, drug users, and gang members.,
Annie Sprinkle, who worked in the sex industry since 1974, has seen their overall predicament worsen in some ways. (She described herself as a Sex worker turned radical sex educator, turned artist ecosex activist.)
“With the internet, it’s much harder to hide and there are more arrests than ever with more serious consequences,” said Sprinkle.
Despite being illegal, sex workers congregate and advocate for justice. They do this out in the open.
For example, this June 2 is the 45th annual International Whores Day where sex workers march in different cities to remember the 1975 occupation of Église Saint-Nizier in Lyon, France by thousands of sex workers, who were protesting inhumane working conditions.
Another pivotal day is December 17, The International Day to end Violence Against Sex Workers. On that date in 2003, Gary Ridgeway, known as the Green River Killer, confessed to killing 49 women, most of whom were sex workers. He was convicted that day. In response, Sprinkle and the Sex Workers Outreach Project’s (SWOP-USA) co-founder Robyn Few organized a memorial that was held that same day on the lawn of San Francisco City Hall where 60 to 80 people attended. It is now an annual event observed by sex workers throughout the world.
Today, prostitution is legal in certain parts of the world. The following link shows where it is currently legal:
David Block has numerous articles published on disability, and also the dangers sex workers face, especially due to criminalization. He is a Temple University graduate. This article originally appeared in The Patch.
Post Note: USPROS is a multiracial network of women who work or have worked in different areas of the sex industry. Founded in 1982, US PROS campaigns for the decriminalization of prostitution and for justice, protection and resources so that no woman, young person or man is forced into prostitution through poverty or violence. (Contact at www.uspros.net.)