Real concerns for safety of sex workers under Level 2

updated By Aroha Mane

The sex trade industry has been given the go-ahead to resume its business under Level 2.  However, advocacy services say because of the intimate nature of the work there are concerns around keeping workers and clients safe from the virus.

"Sex workers are allowed to work at Level 2 which mainly has been welcomed across the sex worker community. However, it does bring some anxieties around COVID-19 and obviously sex work is close contact," says Dame Catherine Healy, National Coordinator for the NZ Prostitutes Collective.

Dame Catherine leads the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective and through their website, they have listed a series of guidelines to keep workers safe.  However, Michelle Mara from the Wahine Toa Rising advocacy groups says more help is needed.

"We've had a lot of women speak to us about the confusion they're having and the lack of information, the lack of resources and the lack of support," she explains. 

Some workers have felt discriminated against when applying for the wage subsidy.

"In the beginning of COVID-19, certainly people were anxious when declaring whether they were sex workers or not," says Dame Catherine.

To allow for distancing, some are suggesting that sex workers take their services online but Mara warns against the breach of privacy and images being on-sold.

"You are exposing not only your physical self in terms of images to an uncontrollable internet but the women that have done this work in the past talk about a different level of trauma and danger."

Contact tracing could also present some problems.

"We know that men who go in and pay for these services lie but women need to have their privacy safeguarded a heck of a lot more," says Mara.

The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective are encouraging workers to contact them if they need help but Wahine Toa Rising wants to see a group set up within the Ministry of Health to help these workers.

More information can be found here.