‘Don’t forget us’: Belgian sex workers ask for donations to survive lockdown
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‘Don’t forget us’: Belgian sex workers ask for donations to survive lockdown

Credit: Belga

The Belgian union for sex workers, UTSOPI, launched a call to help workers who no longer have any income now that they have had to stop their activities due to the coronavirus lockdown.

“We have received more applications for help in recent weeks than during the entire three months of the first lockdown,” a UTSOPI spokesperson told The Brussels Times.

A lot of sex workers are no longer able to pay rent or medical expenses, and have to resort to food tickets to feed themselves, as they do not have a statute to fall back on now that they cannot work.

After Belgium’s lockdown measures went into force at the start of November, the Brussels French Community Commission (COCOF) released a budget to offer food tickets for sex workers who found themselves without an income overnight.

The tickets were issued in response to a demand for financial support from sex workers, but were “definitely not enough” to survive the Covid-19 crisis, according to the sex worker organisation.

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During the lockdown in Spring, the virus and the ban on sex work already “gnawed through most of our savings,” the spokesperson said.

UTSOPI already organised crowdfundings to raise money to help sex workers in need before the summer, but the support is needed now more than ever, according to the organisation.

“Due to the lack of official statute, most sex workers do not receive any government support to fall back on, like other people who are now temporarily unemployed do,” he added.

“Help us to support [the sex workers], make a donation, share this message, do not forget us,” the organisation said in a message on social media.

Citizens can make a donation, which will be used to buy food, pay for basic medical care and emergency accommodation for sex workers evicted from their homes, among other things.

While UTSOPI aims to help as many sex workers as possible, priority will be given to undocumented people, single people with children or other dependants, and people without any other income or government assistance, in that order.

“Believe us that we are doing our utmost to support all sex workers in Belgium in this unprecedented crisis situation, but we must also make difficult choices and prioritise the people most at risk as much as possible,” they added.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times