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    How the coronavirus impacts prostitution in Brussels

    In the North Quarter, the brothels were closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Credit: Belga

    The police have closed three hotels in Brussels after sex workers in the area ignored the government measures instructing people to stay inside to the further spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

    On Wednesday morning, the police closed ‘Studio 2000’, ‘Studio Europe’ and ‘5th Avenue’, three hotels in Brussels Alhambra district known for prostitution until 3 April, following repeated complaints from local residents. “We still saw prostitutes on the streets soliciting, all while the government is calling on the whole population to stay inside,” said Jan Leerman of the Alhambra neighbourhood committee to Het Nieuwsblad.

    “In the North Quarter, the brothels were closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but in our district, prostitutes continued soliciting as if nothing had changed,” Leerman said. “We do not think it is normal for a neighbourhood committee to have to report these problems, which can harm public health,” he added.

    “The closure is part of an ordinance that Brussels’ mayor Philippe Close took on Tuesday, on the prohibition of prostitution in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” Maïthe Van Rampelbergh, Close’s spokesperson, told Het Laatste Nieuws. “This concerns both prostitution on the street and prostitution in institutions and buildings,” they added.

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    “We believe that sex workers have to respect the government’s measures as well, and are therefore not asking for an exemption,” Daan Bauwens of UTSOPI, a union of sex workers in Belgium, told Bruzz.

    “At the same time, this is a very difficult time for sex workers. They have nothing to fall back on, and so they take to the streets, simply to survive. We ask the federal and regional governments for support measures for sex workers,” Bauwens said.

    “Many problems, which have been going on for years, are surfacing because of the coronavirus crisis. We understand that the residents of the Alhambra district are worried about their health, but we are not happy with the image they paint of the sex workers as spreaders of disease,” he added.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times