Amnesty International: Include sex workers in the COVID-19 response

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Amnesty International

Amnesty International have released a statement urging governments to take targeted action to address the disparate impact of COVID-19 on sex workers. The statement draws attention to government responses that, in many contexts, have been punitive, overbroad, and/or discriminatory, and provides key recommendations.

“Amnesty International urges governments to take targeted action to address the disparate impact of COVID-19 on sex workers and to protect their health and other human rights, including through tackling the key issues of concern that sex workers have raised since the outbreak of COVID-19, such as their exclusion from social and economic support schemes, increased criminalization and lack of protection from violence, and diminished access to health services.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic saw government action to reduce and slow transmission, including by restricting human rights and sometimes adopting emergency legislation. Some states have provided social and economic support amidst job losses, rising gender-based violence and school closures. However, sex workers have largely been left out of such support programmes, particularly in countries where sex work is criminalized.

Key Recommendations to Governments:

  • Ensure that sex workers are not excluded or discriminated against amidst COVID-19 responses and recovery efforts, in line with international obligations to ensure that all state action is non-discriminatory and to effectively combat COVID-19 in line with human rights law and standards.
  • Include sex workers, as well as all self-employed and informal workers, without discrimination, in unemployment assistance and other financial and social support programmes.
  • Urgently consider the implementation of regularization programmes and other measures to protect the human rights of migrants, such as firewalls between service-providers and immigration authorities, and the extension of visas during the global crisis triggered by COVID-19, as a means to protect human rights and public health.
  • Halt all evictions and ensure access to appropriate emergency housing for any who need it, including sex workers.”

Read the full statement on the Amnesty International website.