© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

NZ Prostitutes Collective to continue to support workers while no contact sex work allowed

Nikki Carroll
Sex Workers street sign
Manchester Street, Christchurch  Mitchell Redman

Dame Catherine Healy, NZPC national co-ordinator and founding member, says the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could be long-lasting which would have significant impact on the sex worker industry.

NZPC has suggested to members they consider non-contact sex acts, for example, cam-cording and texting. The challenge is whether people can be financially sustained by this method, so right now the collective’s advice remains clear and simple – sex workers need to have an alternative income such as the wage subsidy.

Dame Healy says a number of Government agencies have reached out to NZPC to offer help, including WINZ and the police.

"It's very important people who may be at risk, such as those in the sex work industry, are brought into the mix to ensure they are being fully supported," Healy says.

Victoria University sex work industry researcher, Cherida Fraser, says even before the Level 4 lockdown NZPC was considering what was needed to protect members due to the high risk of contracting and transmitting the virus as well as the difficulty in contact tracing.

However, sex workers are still experiencing on-going serious requests for bookings, despite the lockdown, including those from tourists in hotel rooms. 

Ava, a Wellington-based sex worker with 25 years' industry experience, says it's selfish.

“It really blows my mind the risks these idiots are willing to take for 'a bit of fun' with no thought for the safety of their families/housemates health or our own.  It’s so incredibly selfish and irresponsible.”

Sex Workers contact requests v4
Sex worker's contact request Ava Love - Twitter

 

Another issue is problematic clients.  Usually these people get blacklisted and their details are shared around sex worker circles, however at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak there were more calls coming through from them. 

Ms Fraser believes it was probably because they thought the sex workers would be struggling financially so would accept their bookings.

The collective is also concerned about the impact of this pandemic in relation to the stigma of sex work in New Zealand, despite the fact the industry has very good rates of sexual health.  

“We’ve only just started fighting the [idea] of sex workers being vectors of disease and…it’s important that we keep that at bay,” says Ms Fraser.

Unlike a lot of other occupations, sex work is going to be one of the last ones to return to normal because of the inability for social distancing.

Dame Healy says she has great concern for how that is going to look for people in the industry.

Catherine Healy DNZM cropped v2
Dame Catherine Healy Wikipedia