Bolivian sex workers feel strain from quarantine amid coronavirus pandemic

As the coronavirus spreads across the globe, social distancing measures are devastating many professions and that certainly includes sex work.

In Bolivia, business is drying up for those in the trade after their interim president ordered a quarantine between the hours of 18:00 and 5:00. That's the time these women usually operate in a licensed brothel. Despite the unprecedented public health concern, women like Roselle are soldiering on.

"I'm working because I have to but I'm also taking care of myself. I've always taken care of myself since before this disease showed up. I like for my clients to leave content and clean. I've always had alcohol gel since I started this job, I have three disinfectants, toilet paper, a first aid kit and my air freshener," says Roselle.

READ MORE: How this sex worker found her true sexuality through her work, now all she wants is for it to be decriminalised 

But the money is not rolling in. She blames the quarantine, along with competition from recently-arrived sex workers from Venezuela. 

Lily Cortez represents the country's sex workers association. She says it's getting harder for these women to support their families and says that sex work will increase outside of the more regulated brothels.

"The thing is, you can't close this down. Unfortunately, we sex workers will go out in the streets and a cure will be worse than the disease with all the STIs and HIV because we educate our coworkers in the rooms at the sites so they get their check-ups, we take their documents. But they'll go out to the streets and nobody will test them there and this is a very delicate topic," says Lily.

READ MORE: Sex work is work: why this woman chose to sell sex

Even though brothels are shut down in the evening, essential businesses like supermarkets, hospitals, banks and pharmacies are continuing to operate as normal during the quarantine. 

Compiled by Phelokazi Mbude

Source: Reuters

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