Global Briefing Paper: The Impact of COVID-19 on Sex Workers


Sex workers all over the world were among the hardest hit communities at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be impacted by this global public health crisis. The structural oppression that sex workers faced before the pandemic as a result of criminalisation, stigma and discrimination was exacerbated as sex workers experienced hardship, a total loss of income, increased harassment, human rights abuses, and health inequalities. The vast majority of sex workers were excluded from emergency responses and national social protection schemes. Consequently, as governments imposed strict public health protection measures, social distancing orders and travel restrictions, sex workers were faced with continuing to work in order to provide from themselves and their families, and potentially being prosecuted for breaking these regulations, as well as any existing laws criminalising sex work.

The regional sex worker-led networks who are partners in the Sex Worker Networks Consortium documented the impact of COVID-19 on sex workers and sex worker-led organisations in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe & Central Asia (CEECA) and Asia Pacific. Regional networks hired national consultants to organise focus groups, interviews, and surveys to document the lived experiences from sex workers and sex worker-led organisations from January to June 2022. This project aimed to build on the evidence documented in the early stages of the pandemic in a NSWP Policy Brief, providing an in-depth analysis at regional level. This global paper summarises the evidence emerging from the reports developed by Plataforma Latino Americana de Personas que EjeRcen el Trabajo Sexual (PLAPERTS), the Caribbean Sex Work Coalition (CSWC), the African Sex Worker Alliance (ASWA), the Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network for Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (SWAN) and the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW). It highlights the common issues faced by sex workers across the five regions, exposing the main challenges that they faced during the pandemic.

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