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 6pm and 5am.
That’s the time these women usually operate in a licensed brothel.
Despite the unprecedented public-health concern, women like ‘Grisel’ are soldiering on:
(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) BOLIVIAN SEX WORKER, "GRISEL," SAYING:
"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 (coronavirus) 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.”
But the money is not rolling in. She blames the quarantine… along with competition from recently arrived sex workers from Venezuela.
Lily Cortes represents the country’s Sex Workers Association.
She says it’s getting harder for these women to support their families, and says that prostitution will increase outside of the more regulated brothels.
(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) REPRESENTATIVE OF THE BOLIVIAN NATIONAL SEX WORKERS ASSOCIATION, LILY CORTES, SAYING:
"The thing is, you can't close this down, unfortunately we sex workers will go out in the streets - and the cure will be worse than the disease with all the STIs (sexually transmitted diseases) and HIV. Because we educate our co-workers in the rooms, at the sites, so they get their check ups, we take their documents. But, they'll go out in the street and nobody will test them there and this is a very delicate topic.”
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.