Daily Star: How Covid hit UK’s sex industry: Prostitution ‘far from normal’ as brothels reopen
The sex industry is still ‘far from normal’ according to campaigners who claim the trade should be legalised. The demand for sex workers is not what it was before Covid-19
Laura Watson has been involved with the English Collective of Prostitutes for 10 years.
The group represent sex worker across the country and have campaigned for the profession to be legalised..
The spokeswoman said that while demand was never going to be a problem – it is not at the level it was before the virus.
“Normality is still quite far away”, Watson told Daily Star Online.
“There are still clients out there – during lockdown that obviously decreased and it is not like it is anything near normal, but there is a demand out there.
“It’s women’s need for money that fuels the industry – women go into it for financial aid.”
Watson said many prostitutes have had to return to work to pay rent and put food on the table despite risking the killer infection.
It comes after hundreds of sex workers took their business online using web cams during lockdown.
It was reported that just one-in-three prostitutes continued to meet up face to face.
But now that restrictions have eased, Britain’s sex workers have started working the streets again and meeting up with sex-starved clients.
Research on one adult website showed that thousands of escorts and sex workers are now listing themselves as available.
One website appeared to have 21,827 escorts on its books.
And there were 10,000 in London alone, with other popular areas including 1,341 in Manchester and 1,630 in Birmingham.
Watson told Daily Star Online that many prostitutes have had no choice but go back to work.
She said: “Women that have had to go back to work haven’t had much of a choice.
“It’s hard to tell how many have actually gone back to work, but women need to put food on that able and pay their rent and make a living so under very difficult circumstances.
“But for the women who can’t work online they have had to go back to work. From my experience of our network, because of financial pressure.
“It will be that there is no other financial option.”
Despite lockdown lifting across the country and people returning to work the industry is still far from being back to normal.
Prostitutes, like any other business, are having to employ extra safety procedures to stay safe and clean.
Sex workers are engaging in extra hygiene protocols for their meet ups – which includes keeping a distance wherever they can.
The spokeswoman said: “It hasn’t gone back to normal in that women have put whatever safety procedures they can in place.
“All the measures that the Government have deemed safe, including social distancing when they can, and the general measures have been mainly implicated.
“I think women are trying their best to keep as safe as possible.”
It’s understood that some women have used paper bed sheets and extra sanitisers in a bid to avoid contracting and spreading the virus.
And other prostitutes began hosting meet-ups outdoors, where the virus finds it harder to circulate.
One problem reported by the ECP has been an alleged police crackdown on brothels and sex workers meeting up.
Sex workers say police should be focussing their stretched resources elsewhere – and that arrests and prosecution aren’t helping anyone.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic the ECP have campaigned for sex workers to be recognised as legitimate self employed traders.
Prostitutes were not able to claim the same cash support as other freelancers or self-employed Brits.
The spokeswoman said: “Sex workers were completely not included in the support packages because sex workers are illegal, so you couldn’t apply as self employed.
“Sex workers should be allowed and be entitled to that – they should have been able to apply.
“They were left with Universal Credit which is problematic for a number of reasons. Firstly it takes five weeks to get any money.
“That is a big barrier if you have to stop working overnight. Many women have had to into it because Universal Credit is not enough money anyway.
Elsewhere in Europe the sex industry is legal.
Brothels in Switzerland faced a government enforced two month ban during the peak of the virus and have since reopened.
There sex workers have been encouraged to stick to a strict limit of two positions with clients – doggy and reverse cow girl – as they can face away from their partner.
But in the UK, the government says there is no evidence legalising the industry protects workers.
A Home Office spokesperson told Daily Star Online: “We have no plans to change the law around prostitution and are committed to tackling the harm and exploitation associated with sex work.
“We have also made changes to the Universal Credit system to help support people through these unprecedented times.”