Sex Work & COVID-19: Guidelines for Sex Workers, Clients, Third Parties, and Allies

Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network and Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak has created a lot of stress and panic, but sex workers are and always have been resourceful and resilient.  We are experts in keeping ourselves and our communities safe. We’ve been doing it for decades! We would like to share our wisdom and learn from each other on how to overcome this current challenge.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed many sex workers in a particularly difficult situation. While social distancing is strongly advised, it is particularly challenging for contact sex workers (full service workers, strippers, massage workers, professional dominants, etc), queer and trans sex workers, Black and Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) workers at the margins, and otherwise low-income workers to adhere to these
recommendations. We recognize that many sex workers will need to go about their
business as usual. That is the reality of surviving in a capitalist society while enduring
criminalization and stigmatization.

This document follows a harm reduction approach, offering guidelines from various sources to help lower the risk of contact and transmission to those who must continue in-person sex working.

Knowing that each sex worker’s work is unique, we encourage each of our community members to know how transmission occurs, how that fits with your individual work, and what decisions can be made for your specific situation to reduce as many risks as possible for yourself and others.

We have also included guidelines for clients, third parties, allies, and healthcare providers on how to best support sex workers during this time.

COVID-19: A Gender Lens – sexual & reproductive health and gender inequality

UN Population Fund (UNFPA), March 2020

Disease outbreaks affect women and men differently, and pandemics make existing inequalities for women and girls and discrimination of other marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities and those in extreme poverty, worse. This needs to be considered, given the different impacts surrounding detection and access to treatment for women and men.

Women represent 70 percent of the health and social sector workforce globally and special attention should be given to how their work environment may expose them to discrimination, as well as thinking about their sexual and reproductive health and psychosocial needs as frontline health workers

Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report

Australian Human Rights Commission, March 2020

This Inquiry examined the nature and prevalence of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, the drivers of this harassment and measures to address and prevent sexual harassment.

Since 2003, the Australian Human Rights Commission has conducted four periodic
surveys on the national experience of sexual harassment. The most recent survey showed that sexual harassment in Australian workplaces is widespread and pervasive.

One in three people experienced sexual harassment at work in the past five years.

Underpinning this aggregate figure is an equally shocking reflection of the
gendered and intersectional nature of workplace sexual harassment. As the 2018
National Survey revealed, almost two in five women (39%) and just over one in
four men (26%) have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the past
five years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more likely to have
experienced workplace sexual harassment than people who are non-Indigenous (53%
and 32% respectively).

New resource: LGBTI R U OK? Conversation Guide

National LGBTI Health Alliance and R U OK?,  February 2020

“Life can be challenging, and we all need support during times of grief, loss, relationship breakdown and when we’re under work or financial pressure. On top of this, LGBTI people might be subject to prejudice, stigma, discrimination, harassment, and violence.” 

National LGBTI Health Alliance has collaborated with R U OK? to produce this LGBTI guide which was released just in time for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Snapshot of mental health and suicide prevention statistics for LGBTI people

The National LGBTI Health Alliance (The Alliance), February 2020

Although many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians live healthy and happy lives, research has demonstrated that a disproportionate number experience poorer mental health outcomes and have higher risk of suicidal behaviours than their peers.

These health outcomes are directly related to experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse on the basis of being LGBTI. This document aims to provide a snapshot of what is known of the current mental health and wellbeing outcomes of LGBTI people in Australia.

SHINE SA a signatory to the South Australian joint statement against the Religious Discrimination Bill

February 27th, 2020

We the undersigned represent a range of researchers, community service organisations and advocacy groups that support communities throughout South Australia. We are united in our concerns about the draft Religious Discrimination Bill and its potential to cause harm to the communities we serve.

We respect the diversity of Australia and celebrate the multitude of beliefs, identities and cultures that co-exist within our society. We likewise celebrate the various faiths throughout Australia and value the ability for such diverse communities to exist media rpeacefully with one another.

While we respect the Government’s intent to craft a Religious Discrimination Bill that will protect religious Australians from being discriminated against, we are deeply concerned that the current Bill goes too far. Anti-discrimination legislation should protect people from being discriminated against, but this Bill will allow religious Australians, and religious organisations, to discriminate against people who are different from them.

All Australians should be protected equally by the law, regardless of who they are or what they believe. It is for this reason that we call on the Government to reconsider this Bill to ensure that any legislation that is passed protects all of us from discrimination rather than handing some Australians a license to discriminate against others.
For the sake of Australia’s harmonious diversity, we ask all Federal politicians to stand with us in finding a better way forward.

Signed by:

• Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch)
• Child and Family Focus SA
• COTA SA
• Justice for Refugees SA
• Public Law and Policy Research Unit
• SA Lived Experience Leadership & Advocacy Network (LELAN)
• SA Unions
• SHINE SA
• SOS Copper Coast Suicide Prevention Network
• South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS)
• South Australian Network of Drug & Alcohol Services (SANDAS)
• South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance (SARAA)
• St John’s Youth Services
• Youth Affairs Council of South Australia (YACSA)

“SARAA believes in an Australia free from discrimination, but the Religious Discrimination Bill won’t accomplish this. The law should protect people from discrimination, not give a right to discriminate. LGBTIQ South Australians have been clear that they don’t support the current Bill and SARAA is pleased to see so many other organisations taking a stand against it, too. We know this Bill will harm many sections of Australian society and we hope the government will listen to our concerns to find a better way forward.”

– Matthew Morris, Chair, South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance 

“Fourteen community organisations and research groups have come together through the Rights Resource Network SA to raise their voice about the impact of the draft Religious Discrimination Bill on the lives of South Australians.  We have our own system of equal opportunity laws in this state that businesses, community organisations and individuals comply with and rely upon.  They are not perfect, but they don’t deserve to be overridden by proposed federal laws that will elevate the rights of some over the rights of others.  Rather than go ahead with this legally complex and divisive proposal, these thirteen diverse organisations urge the Federal Government start again when it comes to designing legal protections against religious discrimination.  We urge South Australian federal and state Members of Parliament to listen to the concerns of their constituents when it comes to responding to this draft Bill.”

Dr Sarah Moulds, Co-Founder, Rights Resource Network SA and Senior Lecturer in Law the University of South Australia

“There are already a range of existing federal and state laws specifically designed to eliminate discrimination – particularly when it comes to employment. This legislation will create enormous uncertainty about the operation of these laws and will also introduce a considerable compliance burden for all businesses including community sector organisations. SACOSS believes it would be preferable to address any concerns about securing “religious freedoms” using the same framework established in existing discrimination laws.  If not, then one of the best ways we to protect crucial human rights and freedoms would be through the development of a national Bill/Charter of Rights. It is absolutely imperative this proposed Bill is either voted down or properly amended to ensure key issues are addressed so that harmonious and co-operative Australian workplaces are not compromised and that all Australians have their rights enabled.”

– Ross Womersley, CEO of the South Australian Council of Social Service 

“The Religious Discrimination Bill does nothing to improve protections against discrimination on the grounds of religion. In fact, it makes the situation worse for tens of thousands of South Australian workers in religious aged care facilities, hospitals, accommodation providers, educational bodies, and charitable institutions. Not only are those workers expressly excluded from the Bill’s protection, but discrimination against them based on their personal religious belief or activity is specifically permitted and encouraged by the Bill. In addition, all workers in the public sector are completely excluded from protections. The Bill will create a risk of increased confusion, conflict, uncertainty and harm in Australian workplaces and should not be passed in its current form.”

Angas Story, Secretary SA Unions