Sex Workers Denounce Impacts of Curfew
Tiohtià:ke (Montreal, traditional unceded territory of the Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawks) People), January 9, 2022 – Sex worker activists with the Sex Work Autonomous Committee (SWAC) are denouncing the deleterious impacts of the curfew on their working and living conditions. After 21 months of pandemic, they fear that this measure will increase the repressions against them and create more violence and economic insecurity. Instead, they are demanding the complete decriminalization of their work, so that they can put in place strategies to effectively reduce the risks of spreading the virus.
A measure that increases precariousness and violence
Following the announcement of the curfew on December 30ᵗʰ, many sex workers are wondering how they will manage to work and pay the bills. This is the case of a SWAC activist who works in a massage parlor: “The opening hours have been reduced, which means that there are fewer clients and less time to work. We are aware of the extent of the crisis, but at the end of the day, we still have to pay rent!” The latter also denounces that many SWers have not had access to emergency financial aid such as the CERB and the CRB since the beginning of the pandemic, due to the criminalization of their work. “Measures like curfews increase police repression against us, especially for those of us who work outside,” denounces another activist. “There are also SWers who will be afraid of leaving violent situations if they are with a client after the curfew!” She reminds us.
Rights to fight against the pandemic
Sex workers are demanding the immediate and complete decriminalization of their work, which would allow them to put in place strategies to preserve their health at work and limit the risks of contamination. “Sex workers have put in place all sorts of measures since the beginning of the pandemic to ensure that they reduce the risks of transmitting the virus. But there’s not much you can do if your employer doesn’t care about COVID and acts like nothing happened. Because if you report them, you’ll lose your job or worse, your workplace will be closed down” says the activist. “Decriminalization would allow us to have access to labor rights. It would mean that our workplaces would receive recommendations from the Public Health Agency like in other industries and that we could denounce our employers when they don’t comply, as is the case in New Zealand where sex work is decriminalized!” adds a colleague.
This week, a collective of academics denounced the fact that Quebec has not commissioned any study on the effectiveness of last year’s curfew. They also raised concerns about the consequences of this measure on the mental health of the general population as well as the risks to the safety of women, migrants, people without housing, racialized people, sex workers and drug users.
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Sex Work Autonomous Committee
To ensure the safety of committee members, interviews will be conducted anonymously.