Covid-19: South African Sex Workers Identify As Essential Service Providers 

Covid-19: South African Sex Workers Identify As Essential Service Providers 

To curtail the spread of the Coronavirus, many countries have ordered the lockdown of whole cities and states.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa announced a nationwide 21-day lockdown and has ordered South Africans to stay at home.

The president, in his speech vowed to ‘prioritise the lives and livelihoods of our people above all else, and will use all of the measures that are within our power to protect them from the economic consequences of this pandemic’.

The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) are appealing to Ramaphosa to include sex workers as essential service providers during the coronavirus lockdown.

Sex work is still illegal in South Africa. And there are reportedly 158,000 sex workers in South Africa according to Sweat. There is however a reform in place to decriminalize sex work in South Africa.

According to Sweat, ‘since the outbreak of the coronavirus, sex workers have been the first group of workers to be affected financially by the spread of the virus.’

Lesego Tlhwale, a spokesperson for Sweat, in an interview with South Africa’s eNCA, shared ‘while the government is looking to assist other workers at this time, (they should) also think of sex workers who are also hardest hit and are losing income due to the pandemic’

Sex workers want to be identified as essential service providers to partake of government reliefs at this time provided to essential reactive providers.

Speaking on how sex workers will be able to receive government reliefs, Lasego shares that ‘organizations like Sweat have a membership base that can vouch for who are sex workers…’

Does sex work classify as an essential service?

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Author: Darafunmi Olanrewaju




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