In response to a new COVID-19 surge in the Netherlands, the Dutch government has now ordered already-struggling sex workers to shut down their businesses for at least the next two weeks.
A spokesperson for the sex worker lobbying group Red Light
United told DutchNews:
It is very quiet in the red light district, there are no tourists and hardly anyone on the streetsMany of our workers are in enormous financial difficulty.
announced the new lockdown on Tuesday, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the business restrictions would include sex clubs, but not other close-contact businesses, such as hair salons.
It's going to be a bleak winter for
Europe. But for sex workers, a group that feels it's been forgotten during the pandemic, the return of lockdowns doesn't just mean being out of work, it could also mean being once again cut off from vital health services. As the first wave of coronavirus
hit the Continent, many countries implemented complete bans on sex work.
Sex workers in Thailand have launched a petition calling for prostitution to be decriminalised and urging authorities to remove all penalties for selling and buying sex.
Empower Foundation, a group that supports sex workers, said it hoped to collect
10,000 signatures and present the petition to parliament to help persuade lawmakers.
Sex work is commonplace in Thailand and is generally tolerated but anti-prostitution laws are still on the law book and are occasionally revisited when the
authorities fancy a crackdown or else the police fancy a donation.
Women and LGBT+ rights activists say the current law, which made prostitution illegal in 1960, does little to protect sex workers, while repeated arrests and fines for doing sex work
has driven them further into poverty.
Thailand's extensive sex industry, largely caters to Thai men, but attracts international attention via go-go bars and massage parlours that cater for foreign visitors. A 2014 report by the U.N. agency fighting
AIDS estimated that there were 123,530 sex workers in Thailand but advocacy groups put the figure at more than twice that number.
Adult prostitution is currently punishable by a fine of up to 40,000 baht ($1,274) or two years in prison, or both.
More than 24,000 people were arrested, prosecuted and fined for sex work-related offences in Thailand last year, according to the Thai Police.
Sex workers feel less safe, more stigmatised and in greater fear of gardai since a law criminalising the purchase of sex was enacted, a report from Maynooth university warns.
Commissioned by HIV Ireland, the study looks at how the Part 4 of the Sexual
Offences Act (2017) has impacted sex workers.
The report, which HIV Ireland is submitting to a government review of the legislation, says:
The findings ... point to the negative impact of current laws on the abilities
of sex workers to keep safe and reduce harms to their health and well-being, in line with mounting evidence from other jurisdictions where sex buyer laws are in place.
While some international women's groups and radical feminists
support the utility of such sex purchase laws to send a symbolic message on sexual behaviour there is little consideration of the impact on sex workers' safety.
The report, by Dr Paul Ryan and Dr Kathryn McGarry, of the Department of
Sociology at Maynooth University, calls for the law to be repealed, to recognise the reality of sex work and keep those involved in it safe.
Sex workers in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and in other northern jurisdictions, filed court cases to force local officials to lift a coronavirus ban on sex workers.
On Tuesday, the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia
agreed that with similar close contact businesses open, there was no rationale to keep brothels closed. The court found no clear evidence that one-on-one sexual activity carried a higher risk of transmission than indoor gatherings of up to 150 people,
which are allowed under Germany's current coronavirus health regulations .
While sex workers in North Rhine-Westphalia -- whose capital is Dusseldorf and largest city is Cologne -- may return to work this week, their counterparts in Hamburg and
Bremen, where courts also overturned the ban, may resume their activities on September 15.
But the court ruling did not come soon enough for Cologne's Pascha mega-brothel, which according to a Mirror newspaper report , was so devastated by the
shutdown that it has now filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors, putting 100 sex workers and dozens of support staff in the 11-story facility out of work.
The Dutch government coalition partner party, CDA wants paying for sex to become a punishable offence.
CDA MP Anne Kuik is tabling a motion asking the cabinet for a ban. She claims that prostitution turns women into a product to be bought and that is
something that can no longer be tolerated in this day and age.
Kuik is proposing the Netherlands follow in the footsteps of Sweden which criminalised paid sex in 1999. The Swedish government claims that by prosecuting punters but not prostitutes
street prostitution has been halved within a decade.
It is reported that the CDA call is unlikely to win over coalition partners D66 and VVD who are against the measure, saying it would drive prostitution underground.
MPs will also discuss
a citizen initiative by Christian youth movement Exxpose which has gathered over 50,000 signatures in support of measures to curb prostitution.
A Canadian publisher says that offering some relief to coronavirus hit sex workers will be good business. MediaCentral, the Ontario-based company that publishes NOW Magazine in Toronto and Georgia Straight in Vancouver announced this week that it will
resume running adult classified ads in those publications.
In the United States the 2018 FOSTA/SESTA law has effectively banned the online classifieds market by unfairly holding platforms liable for third-party content that could be construed as
promoting sex trafficking.
But in Canada, MediaCentral says that it expects to take in $2 million (US $1.5 million) annually from the resumption of adult classifieds, which it shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
eliminating adult advertising, NOW generated strong sales from its Adult Classifieds Category. The Straight has continued to offer adult advertising over the years, but the category was temporarily suspended during the height of COVID. The
company's CEO Brian Kalish said in a statement: w
We expect this re-launch to drive strong sales numbers alongside our newly revamped and fully integrated sales platforms. Our decision to bring back the classifieds is
part of our strategic path to creating sustainable, profitable publications.
Sex workers in Germany are appealing to politicians to ease coronavirus restrictions that have prevented them from working during the pandemic. Sex workers have taken their complaints to the streets, in demonstrations in Hamburg, Cologne, Stuttgart and
There are growing reports of sex workers being subjected to violence, underpayment and being forced to compromise their health because of clients' demands during meetings in non-formal settings.
This week, Berlin's government appeared
to give way to their demands after announcing a graduated return to sexual services without intercourse. From 1 September, intercourse will be allowed to take place between sex workers and their clients in the German capital, but only under strict
hygiene regulations. Sex workers operating in Germany's 15 other states hope the governments there will soon follow suit.
The Federal Association of Erotic and Sex Services has accused lawmakers of failing to address the concerns of sex workers
because of the stigma attached to the industry, while giving hairdressers, tattoo parlours, massage and beauty salons, fitness studios, saunas and swinger clubs the green light to reopen weeks ago. They point out that in neighbouring Switzerland,
the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and the Czech Republic, brothels are being allowed to operate again.
Canada's province of British Columbia have issued guidelines recommending the use of glory holes as a method of COVID-safe sex.
Previously New York guidelines suggested the use of barriers to avoid risky, face-to-face contact during sex, B.C. health
officials have specifically recommended glory holes to allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact.
The B.C. health officials say that sexual partners should wear facial masks during their activities specifically because heavy
breathing during sex can create more droplets that may transmit COVID-19.
A new law criminalizing payment for sexual services took effect in Israel last week. A new survey by Tel Aviv University found that nearly one in every three Israeli men say they have paid for sex at least one time in their lives, and one in six say that
they have paid on multiple occasions.
Sex work has long been legalized in Israel 204 but most of the activities that make professional sex work possible are not. Operating a brothel and pimping are outlawed in the country of about 8.8 million, and in
January of last year, Israel's Knesset, or parliament, passed a new law making the payment of money for sexual services a crime.
That law finally took effect on July 10 of this year. Not only is paying for sex illegal under the new law, but even
seeking the services of a sex worker can now be punished by a fine ranging from the equivalent of $530 for a first offense, to a maximum of $20,400 for repeat offenses, according to a report by The Times of Israel .
In fact, the law now makes it
illegal even to be caught in a place where sexual services are offered, such as a brothel.
Germany has been releasing most businesses from coronavirus lockdown but the country's sex work industry remains banned. Brothels and similar sex-related businesses have been closed since mid-March due to the pandemic -- though other close-contact
businesses such as nail salons and massage therapy parlors have been permitted to reopen.
In response, a group of sex workers in Berlin staged a protest on Friday, wielding an inflatable sex doll outside the Bundesrat, the upper house of Germany's
parliament. The protesters also brandished placards with slogans including, Let us work, Open the brothels now , and Our sector is being driven underground.
The Federal Association for Erotic and Sex Services, a trade association and
lobbying group for the sex industry, said that the sex workers seem to have been forgotten by politicians. The trade group called the continued shutdown of the sex industry incomprehensible in view of the developments in other sectors.
many businesses, including those involving close contact such as hair salons, have been allowed to reopen in the Netherlands, sex work was scheduled to remain shut down until September. However an outcry from sex workers sparked a change of heart and the
Dutch government announced last week that legal sex work could resume on July 1.
Sex workers had staged a demonstration at Amsterdam's City Hall, with chants of, Open the windows, open the windows! We want to work! We want to work!
was reported by Euronews that sex workers and business owners had suspected that the government may be using the coronavirus crisis as a pretext to end legalization.
Brothels will be allowed to re-open in Austria on 1 July, in an easing of coronavirus restrictions. The health ministry is working with groups representing the country's 8,000 registered sex workers to develop hygiene measures, according to the Austria
Elsewhere in Europe, the Netherlands also plans to reopen brothels on 1 July.
Those in Greece opened last week. Rules brought in by the Greek government include card-only payments, a time limit of 15 minutes per customer, compulsory
face masks and workers taking a list of clients' contact details in case they need to be traced.
People are clearly enjoying clean air, traffic free roads and empty buses and trains, but maybe they should be a little bit careful in what they wish for.
Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema is due to publish avision for tourism which will outline how she
sees tourism developing post coronavirus.
And now a group of organisations have published their own vision for the future of the city centre, ahead of the mayor's proposals. The residents' associations say their plan of action will restore the
balance between residents, companies and visitors.
The plan calls on officials to uphold the ban on holiday rentals and to close down illegal hotels. Cannabis cafes, it says, should only be open to residents. There should be fewer music festivals and
a ban on amusement park activities such as beer bikes, water bikes, segways and the like. In addition, the city, as a shareholder in Schiphol airport, should pressure for a reduction in holiday traffic. Mini supermarkets should be banned from selling
alcohol and the sex industry should be moved in its entirety to a hotel in a different location.
In fact moving the red light district is one of the options which mayor Femke Halsema has already mooted. And earlier this year, a report drawn up by city
officials suggested that a special room rental complex for prostitutes or an erotic centre complete with prostitution, sex theatres and other facilities are the two most likely options on the table.
Geerte Udo, chief executive of city marketing
department amsterdam&partners, told DutchNews.nl earlier this month that the city will aim to build a new industry that is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. Instead of attracting the hen parties and stag nights who once turned the
red light district into an all night party, it is aiming for a culture and history-loving audience. Amsterdam has always been an open and international city, and we would love to welcome visitors as soon as possible, she told DutchNews.nl. But the right
Meanwhile, sex worker organisation Red Light United has published its own plans which would allow window prostitution, currently banned until September 1, to resume. The protocol would require both sex worker and client to wear masks and
rubber gloves and only positions which do not involve face to face contact would be permitted.
Coronavirus has caused Germany's brothels to close their doors, but some politicians inevitatbly want the ban to become permanent.
Prominent German politicians called for brothels to be closed indefinitely, extending their temporary closure due to
Sixteen lawmakers from Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right CDU party and the center-left Social Democrats wrote a letter, seen by German media, to the premiers of the 16 German states claiming that sex workers could
become super spreaders of the virus.
In their letter, the German lawmakers express hope that the closure of the brothels could be a good opportunity to improve opportunities for sex workers in Germany. Re-opening the brothels will not help these
women. Instead, they need apprenticeships, training or work in a secure job.
The letter calls for Germany to take the opportunity to adopt the Nordic model, under which paying for sex is illegal.
Japan has reportedly reversed its decision to discriminate against sex workers who are economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
CNN has reported that Health and Labor Minister Kazunobu Kato declared that Japan's legal sex workers will be
eligible to receive government assistance as part of the nation's economic relief package.
Japan's original COVID-19 relief plan initially barred sex workers, along with bars, restaurants and gangsters, from receiving any economic aid and was
widely criticized for being discriminatory in its application
The financial relief will be paid to businesses and it is still unclear how self-employed sex workers would be treated under the new plan.
Canada introduced nasty sex work laws in 2015 that criminalised men and ended up endangering the sex workers.
Now a landmark case has resulted in a small victory that may challenge the constitutionality of the 2015 laws.
Charges against a
London, Ontario couple, Tiffany Harvey and Hamad Anwar, who were arrested in 2015 following a raid on their business, Fantasy World Escorts, have been stayed following a landmark decision by Judge Thomas McKay that the charges are unconstitutional. In
his decision, McKay noted, legislation for which the stated purposes include eliminating exploitation and reducing the risk of violence to sex workers actually has the effect of exposing sex workers to an increased risk of exploitation.
Anwar were tried for charges which prohibit the procuring, advertising and materially benefiting from someone else's sexual services.
Although legal analysts suggest the Crown will appeal McKay's decision, the ruling nonetheless denotes a landmark
case regarding sex workers' rights, one which could set a precedent for future cases.
Amsterdam Council has banned guided tours that take groups around the city's red-light district gawping at sex workers behind windows.
Sex work doesn't sit well with PC lawmakers these days so the council euphemistically claimed that the policy was to
address 'over-tourism'.Amsterdam Deputy Mayor Victor Everhardt said in a statement.
It is disrespectful to treat sex workers as a tourist attraction. Tours of the red-light district still will be allowed if guides
stick to the new restriction, which takes effect in April, and keep the windows off their itineraries. Banning group tours of the red-light district windows will help to prevent disruptions for residents and businesses.