The National Coordinator, Nigeria Sex Workers Association, Amaka Enemo, cried out after sex workers in the country were forced to suspend activities, especially in Lagos and Abuja during the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The government has announced a lockdown and as law-abiding citizens, we will not flout the law. If the government says sit at home, we will all obey because nobody wants to die,” she said.
According to her, despite the essence of their services, they have thought it wise to suspend them for time being to safeguard the lives of the prostitutes. Enemo told The Punch that her outfit came to that decision because the work of her members involves “substantial bodily contact”, so the risk of contracting the COVID-19 is high.
She compared prostitution with health work arguing that the former is even more essential than the latter.
“There is sensitisation across the country including within our network. Sex workers also offer essential services. However, there is no way sex workers can do their work without body contact. So, they are staying at home to watch what happens.
“We fall under essential services but ours is peculiar because of the nature of body contact. You cannot compare it to doctors because the doctors are not making full-body contact with people the way we do,” Amaka Enemo argued.
In the same vein, another country affected by COVID-19 is South Africa (SA). Amidst the chaos spread by the virus, the South African government has put measures in place to try and curb the number of infections.
Among these measures is the enforcement of a lockdown, which was extended, with only essential workers allowed to work. As a social security measure, the government also implemented relief through an employment scheme to vulnerable employees.
Sex workers also demanded to be included as part of essential workers as their business has been allegedly affected. Furthermore, the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force has argued that ‘sex work is also work’, therefore, sex workers should be included in the COVID-19 employment benefit scheme.
This is controversial as prostitution is illegal in South Africa and subject to criminal penalties. Despite its illegality, sex workers do exist in SA. This illegality and criminalisation of prostitution can be understood against the background that prostitution itself cannot be separated from many heinous crimes, such as child prostitution, sex trafficking, organised crime and the inhuman treatment of women.
Meanwhile, we will like to hear from you. Do you think sex work should be regarded as an essential service? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economies of countries has been devastating, causing massive layoffs and in some cases, salary cuts across all businesses and sex workers are no different.
The outbreak’s impact on sex traders in Africa has been so enormous to the extent that heads of government across the continent were petitioned by the ‘night angels’ to consider them as essential service providers amid lockdown to curb the spread of the deadly contagion.