Panel Discussion: Impacts of COVID on Sex Workers
On October 26th, we held our annual AGM followed by a panel discussion. The discussion focused on the impacts of COVID-19 on street-based & im/migrant sex workers. The types and forms of sex work are extremely varied and diverse, however, the focus of this panel was on street-based sex work and im/migrant sex work; two areas of sex work that see the most amount of vulnerability and risk.
Panelists volunteered their time to speak from a combination of lived experience and expertise as well as from their roles as frontline service providers. The discussion was not intended to represent or speak for all sex workers or types of sex work but rather, was informed by the lived expertise of the panelists and what they are hearing from the folks they work with and support.
It is important to acknowledge that WISH is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples–Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.
Please watch the full panel discussion below.
read more about our panelists
join us in our CALLS TO ACTION brought forward by the panelists
- The importance of education – all of us can and should inform ourselves about sex work issues, intersectionality, how sex workers struggles relate to other people’s struggles. (Lyra – PACE Society)
- There is a gap in knowledge surrounding the issues affecting the women we serve – it’s not just criminal law but also the immigration prohibition. Immigration laws are representative of the racism that is more broadly reflective in our culture. There’s a role we can all play in educating ourselves in the unique experience of im/migration sex workers. Learn more here. (Kelly – SWAN)
- “We need to speak up and we need to inform, and we need to advocate – continuing to inform and educate health care providers, policymakers, the general public to reduce stigma, to share understanding, to break down barriers, to help people understand that sex work is work and it requires the same support other employment providers. Sex workers deserve to retire. Sex workers deserve to access health care without judgement and ignorance defining the experience.” (Spence – Health Initiative for Men)
- Taking that education and having sex workers voices heard and making your support for sex workers and sex workers rights issues are known. (Lyra – PACE Society)
- Employing women with lived experiences to patrol hot spots in order to provide women engaged in street-based sex work with support during certain hours. This would fill the need for community and employment and ensure there are eyes on the street. (Eva -WISH )
- Shelters and housing for everyone (Eva – WISH)
- Providing information and PPE and ensure sex workers have the proper equipment to safely continue their line of work. (Eva – WISH)
- Defund the police in favour of social supports (Spence – Health Initiative for Men)
- Push the Canadian government to stop criminalizing sex work (Spence – Health Initiative for Men)