We are sharing five articles focussing on the impact of the current health crisis on the five NSWP regions, based on responses to our COVID-19 Impact Survey. These snapshots provide an insight into what governments are doing – and not doing – to support sex workers and sex worker organisations and how the sex worker community are responding to the crisis.
It was announced in March by the World Health Organisation that Europe had become the "epicentre" of the global coronavirus pandemic. To date, the Republic of North Macedonia has reported over 1,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its borders. During this time of crisis, the sex workers of North Macedonia are suffering almost invisibly; unlike many other countries, where the plight of sex workers during the pandemic has at least been touched upon by the news media, the coverage of North Macedonia has no mention of this community. The situation in the country has left sex workers in “poverty and isolation”, with some “losing their rent-homes” and leaving others with “no access to hormonal therapy for transgender sex workers in process of transition.” The Association for Support of Marginalized Workers, STAR-STAR, reported their experiences of the pandemic in North Macedonia in our COVID-19 Impact survey.
Like many governments around the world, the government of North Macedonia has attempted to curb the spread of the virus by commencing a period of lockdown. The lockdown in North Macedonia includes a nationwide curfew that lasts all weekend and from Monday through Friday from 4.00pm until 5.00am. This curfew has meant that access to essential services is limited, with some service providers available only irregularly by phone.
Although sex workers in North Macedonia have the same access to emergency food packs and emergency housing for the homeless as the general population, STAR-STAR reported to us that “no measures uniquely created for sex workers are available”.
Between the threat of losing their homes and falling into poverty and the lack of any support for the sex worker community, sex workers are risking their health and safety by breaking lockdown restrictions to earn a living. “Some sex workers still can be seen on the street, facing administrative fines by the police.”
To counter the lack of government support, STAR-STAR has launched a charity campaign to raise money for sex workers who are in desperate need of financial help, as well as providing emergency food and hygiene supplies for sex workers in three cities.
“For many families, the income generated by sex work is either the only or the primary source of finances; for single-mother families or families with many children. Sex workers are in a really difficult situation, especially because they are excluded from national economic measures. They are seeing a dramatic decrease in clients and work, and loss of income on which their livelihoods depend.”