Sex workers breach Covid rules but others claim subsidy

By Marena Mane

As Covid-19 testing continues in Northland, the national coordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective, Dame Catherine Healy, says the reasons for two women's departure from Auckland at alert level four to go north remain unknown.

Sex workers' travels are now being scrutinised, because of the two women breaching regional borders during Delta restrictions. One of the women was found to have an allegedly falsified exemption to cross the border. That woman, who has Covid-19, has refused to say where she went in Northland.

“There is anticipation on what motivated people to leave but what the circumstances were we certainly don't know,”  Healy says.

An Auckland woman who escaped to Wellington earlier this month is also thought to be a sex worker.

Healy argues that because sex workers are self-employed and with the aid of MSD, they are eligible for assistance through wage subsidy and resurgence payment.

Stigma

 “Some sex workers are not compliant with tax, they’ve only been doing sex work for a short time and there's been a lot of anxiety for that particular collection of sex workers as well as some migrant sex workers who are stuck,” she says.

Healy claims sex workers are not considered essential workers and must seek alternative forms of sex work, particularly those in Auckland who have been in lockdown for a longer period of time.

“They've had to work hard at developing other parts of their sex work, which don't involve contact. So it's been tricky for them.”

According to Healy, the stigma associated with sex workers has a significant impact on their ability to operate lawfully and can be a barrier to interacting with systems such as paying taxes.

“They don't want the stigma of sex work to follow them through life. So, there's a lot of anxiety if you for instance breach Covid and you are to appear in court.”

“We'd urge any lawyer representing sex workers to push hard for name suppression because families fall apart. Stigma hurts, it can go on to really harm people.”