About 20 sex workers demonstrated outside the Gare du Nord train station in Brussels on Sunday to press for a support plan adapted to their situation and a clear status for their sector.
Since the start of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, sex workers have been forced to stop working, but many have not been covered by support measures. Now that a first set of restrictions are being relaxed, they feel they are being ignored.
“This pandemic has once again showed the need for a clear status,” a spokeswoman said.
A demonstrator who gave her first name as Judith said there were “about 30,000 sex workers in Belgium who have had to stop their activities since March 2020.”
“Most have no incomes because they could not apply for the ‘droit passerelle’ or any other assistance,” she said, referring to a monthly allowance for self-employed persons forced to suspend their activities due to measures against COVID-19.
“Many have no option but to pursue their activities clandestinely, with all the health risks that entails,” Judith added.
Now that some small and medium-sized businesses have been allowed to reopen, sex workers feel they have been forgotten. “Contact professions have been allowed to reopen, but what about us? We were not mentioned at the last press conference,” Judith noted.
The agreement worked out at Friday’s Consultative Committee meeting does, in fact, mention prostitution, but only to say that it remains banned since, according to the text, the 1.5-metre physical distance rule “cannot be guaranteed between the service provider and the consumer.”
“This crisis has shown once again that a clear legal status is needed,” Judith argued. “Had that been the case, we wouldn’t have had all these problems. Then we would have been able to exercise our profession, because that’s what it’s all about, in all legality.
“We also would not have had to play around with the different types of status and work under labels like ‘massage therapist’ or ‘beautician’.”