Belgium's sex workers were 'not prepared' for quick restart

Belgium's sex workers were 'not prepared' for quick restart
Credit: Belga

Sex workers in Belgium are happy with the clarity they received about the restart of their work, even if they could have used a little more time to prepare.

Even though many sex workers are happy to be allowed to work again, they were not prepared for such a quick restart. "We could have used a little more time. We had proposed 15 June or even 1 July, but then after the National Security Council, we found out that it could start again on Monday," Daan Bauwens of UTSOPI, a union for sex workers in Belgium, told The Brussels Times.

"However, we are very happy that there is finally clarity," Bauwens said. "It took some time before we got it, and it was not communicated to us very clearly, but we had a start date, and a protocol," he added.

The official restart is a good thing, as a lot of sex work was already going on under the radar, according to him, which can be dangerous for several reasons. "We did not want people to feel inhibited to look for help in case they experienced an assault or got ill," said Bauwens, explaining that people are less likely to look for help if they are doing something that is not allowed.

The protocol that sex workers have to respect has been validated by the Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy (GEES), but is still awaiting validation from Minister for Independents, the Self-Employed, the Self-Employed and SMEs Denis Ducarme.

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As respecting the social distance is not possible for sex workers, hygiene measures are incredibly important. Wearing a face mask will become mandatory, and bed sheets need to be disposable, according to the protocol.

Mouth-to-mouth contact is forbidden, which is why a disposable or cloth face mask should be worn by both the sex worker and the client, except for oral sex.

"We absolutely needed that protocol. You cannot allow people to do sex work the same way as before, so we are very happy that we were able to send that protocol to sex workers and business owners," Bauwens said.

The sector has only restarted for two days, but the first reactions are quite positive, according to UTSOPI. "Clients seem to think it is okay. They seem to understand and appreciate the way things need to be done," said Bauwens, adding that the biggest nuisance seems to be the extra disinfecting.

These measures need to be taken in addition to the basic hygiene rules, and the systematic disinfection of hands. As much as possible, it is also recommended for both the sex worker and the client to take a shower before the intercourse.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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