COVID19:Sex worker’s livelihood hangs in balance amidst uncertainty

Vulnerable women such as sex workers are most affected by the lockdown. With bars being closed they are left with no other choice but to bring the client in their homes or even go to their client’s houses. This puts sex workers at great risk of being abused.

A standard surgical mask goes for 100 Kenyan shillings; the basic requirements stipulate that a mask should not be worn twice. With most sex workers living from hand to mouth and the rise of Kenya’s economy, it is quite difficult to maintain this.

Recently, houses were demolished in Korogocho, Kariobangi ward. “The past few months have been hectic. The country has taken a huge blow from the COVID-19 pandemic. A curfew was set; barring me from carrying out my work and now we have been evicted. All my belongings have been destroyed”

These were the words uttered by a young female sex worker as she watched her house being destroyed. Despite a court order barring the exercise, 5000 people were evicted from their homes, left in the cold with no food. According to media coverage, the demolitions were carried out by the Nairobi City Water and Sewage Company.

“I received no prior notice of eviction. All I saw were bulldozers this morning and the police evicting us. How will I manage to bring food on the table now that my hotspot has been demolished?”

Grace* a female sex worker residing in Korogocho.

The houses demolished were not only homes but also hotspots. Most sex workers are now unable to carry out their work normally. Some have even been forced to stay hungry as they are unable to earn money due to the demolitions.

In addition to all this, sex workers residing in Eastleigh have been affected by the lockdown that was issued by the government. Restrictions have being set. No one is allowed to get in or out of Eastleigh.

The result of this, are sex workers who are HIV positive being unable to acquire ARV refills from our clinics. Condom distribution will also be difficult which will, in turn, result in a rise of Sex workers contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections.

A lot of uncertainty, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, revolves around sex work. With the occurrence of such events, the sex worker’s livelihood is at stake.

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