'Virus is just an excuse': Brussels sex workers angry over sudden prostitution ban

'Virus is just an excuse': Brussels sex workers angry over sudden prostitution ban
Credit: Belga

Brussels' sex workers are angry that they were not consulted before the City of Brussels sprung a prostitution ban on them on Monday evening, in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus in the city.

As the ban not only concerns street prostitution on Brussels 1000's territory, namely the Alhambra district, but also sex work in any buildings in the area's so-called rendez-vous hotels, many businesses are wondering how to survive the measure, according to Maxime Maes of sex worker union UTSOPI.

"The virus is just an excuse. This is not about the coronavirus, but about longstanding issues with the people living in those districts," he told The Brussels Times, referring to how neighbourhood committees have repeatedly attempted to have several hotels in the Alhambra district closed.

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"The biggest issue is not even the ban, the issue is that it was sprung on us out of the blue," Maes said. "What makes us upset most of all is that we were not contacted or informed in advance."

Many of the sex workers in the City of Brussels, especially those working the streets in the Alhambra district, are already in precarious situations, and the ban only makes it harder on them, according to him.

"If they want to ban sex work, they have to organise some kind of system that people can fall back on," Maes said. "If they want to close the hotels and bars, that is fine, but they need to give owners and workers something to survive that period."

UTSOPI is considering organising another crowdfunding campaign, as it did during the height of the coronavirus crisis in spring, to arrange food tickets and rent money for those who need it.

The ban will enter into effect immediately and remain in place until further notice, and the Brussels-Ixelles police zone has been tasked with enforcing it and issuing fines to potential offenders, reports Bruzz.

The Brussels municipalities of Schaerbeek and Saint-Josse, where there are also prostitution districts, will reportedly not impose a ban for the time being.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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