Sex workers seek ’emergency fund’ for income lost during lockdown

Brothels shuttered due to the coronavirus lockdown have resulted in sex workers being made homeless. (AP pic)

PARIS: Sex workers in France on Monday asked the government for an emergency fund to compensate them for lost income, after their work was especially hard-hit by social distancing and confinement measures to combat the coronavirus.

“An emergency fund should be created to provide replacement income for the duration of confinement,” the Red Umbrella Federation of sex workers’ organisations said in a letter addressed to President Emmanuel Macron.

France has announced a special aid of €1,500 for independent workers who lose income due to the coronavirus lockdown that entered into force on March 17, but prostitutes are not among the beneficiaries.

Yet their business has been badly hit, leaving many, and their dependents, in “extreme financial insecurity,” according to the letter.

The lockdown rules allow people to leave home only for essential outings, and then with a signed and dated self-declaration of the purpose of the excursion.

Patrolling police enforce the lockdown and issue fines for violations.

Several associations have reported cases of sex workers being expelled from their hotel rooms or apartments for being unable to pay.

The sex worker community has launched several fundraising initiatives online, but the proceeds have been insufficient.

The Red Umbrella said it feared that hard-pressed sex workers “will be forced to flout confinement… as a matter of survival.”

An emergency fund, it said, is “the only solution to prevent risk-taking associated with the practice of sex work. It is a matter of public health, not only for us, but also for clients and the general public.”

Prostitution is not illegal in France, though a law introduced in 2016 did make it illegal to buy sex, shifting the criminal responsibility to clients who can be fined if caught.