Smart Sex Worker’s Guide to Community-led Responses to COVID-19


Sex workers were among the hardest hit at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be impacted by this global public health crisis. The challenges that sex workers faced before COVID-19, as a result of criminalisation, stigma and discrimination, were all exacerbated by the pandemic. Although governments provided relief for people who were economically impacted due to public health protection measures, the vast majority of sex workers globally were excluded from national emergency responses and social protection schemes. The negative impact of COVID-19 on sex workers’ livelihoods was closely followed by increased stigma and discrimination, violence, and human rights abuses, as well as increasingly negative impacts on inequalities and health outcomes experienced. This exposed the harms of criminalisation, highlighted existing inequities, and shone a light on the structural barriers that exclude sex workers from social protection mechanisms. 

As governments failed to provide adequate assistance in their emergency responses and social protection mechanisms, sex worker-led organisations around the world stepped up to support their communities. Community-led mutual aid funds were set up to provide sex workers with grants and vouchers, and many sex worker-led organisations continued to provide and expand services and support to sex workers by delivering ARVs and PREP directly to sex workers in their homes, along with food and hygiene packages. This Smart Guide will highlight best practices in sex worker-led responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that provide models for future health and humanitarian crises.

You can download this Smart Guide above. It is available in English, Russian, Chinese, French, Spanish and Arabic.

An accompanying infographic is also available.
An accompanying animation is also available.