Antwerp sex workers “can’t afford the bare necessities”

Antwerp’s red light district is feeling the full force of the corona epidemic.  “Many of the ladies have spent all their savings and are now getting into debt in order to purchase the bare necessities of life” says Wendy Gabriëls of Violett, an organisation that defends the interests of sex workers.  “The situation is far worse than during the lockdown.  The punters are just staying away.”

Antwerp sex workers are in a bad way.  Custom is scant and this is having a disastrous effect on the city’s prostitutes.

“The situation of many of the city’s sex workers is precarious at the minute” says Wendy Gabriëls.  “Our social team is getting lots of questions from sex workers looking for assistance.  We try to guide them towards schooling, but it’s not easy.  One in a million finds a job, e.g. as a cleaner.  These are the lucky ones, because jobs are few and far between.  The general economic situation means it’s difficult for sex workers to re-orientate their professional activities.”

The main problem in Belgium is the fact that there is no legal framework for the job of independent sex worker.  As a result they can’t fall back on benefit.

“When the epidemic started we feared the worst.  We’ve noticed that in the Skippers’ Quarter, Antwerp’s red light district, at the minute it’s worse than during the lockdown in the spring. Punters stay away and the big difference is the ladies’ savings have evaporated. They can’t afford the basic necessities.  They are getting into debt.  We’re witnessing real social tragedies among sex workers” concludes Gabriëls.


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