As sex clubs reopen across Europe, sex workers worry about their earnings and also whether they can stay safe. Niki Adams, a spokesperson with English Collective of Prostitutes, says the pandemic and lack of state support shows how far the industry still has to go to gain legal recognition.
Lotte Alberg, who owns two sex clubs in Amsterdam’s famous red-light district, is relieved to see her staff back at work. Club BonTon and Club LV both reopened this week after four months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
News that clubs and brothels could reopen in the Netherlands from the start of July took everyone by surprise — including sex workers.
Club owners were warned that the industry would remain in lockdown because of the pandemic until September, months after all other sectors had already reopened.
But the reality is that many sex workers felt forced to work privately and illegally just to survive. Now, as the industry starts to reopen across Europe, they worry about their earnings and whether they can stay safe.
The Dutch administration, like most European governments, paid a percentage of workers’ wages while they were furloughed. But sex workers rarely qualify. Many who work in the industry across Europe are undocumented migrants, making them ineligible for government support. Others avoid making a claim for assistance because they do not want their families to know what they do.
Alberg says some of her staff had no choice but to continue working privately in order to survive. But it wasn’t the coronavirus they feared most, she says. The women told Alberg that clients sometimes refused to pay the agreed price, knowing that workers had little recourse to demand payment because they were working illegally.
“They were more afraid of the clients because normally, when they work for us, we say, OK, you have to pay this. And this is allowed and this is not allowed.”