Posted: Thursday, June 4, 2020. 10:17 am CST.
By BBN Staff: The COVID-19 pandemic and the State of Emergency (SOE) measures that followed have put thousands of Belizeans out of a job, including sex workers, who are now calling for those measures to be relaxed enough so they can get back to work.
Breaking Belize News spoke with Elisa Castellanos, Executive Director of Tikkun Olam Belize, who said that on the 2020 occasion of International Sex Worker’s Day (marked annually on June 2) Belizean Sex Workers had little to celebrate.
Castellanos said that sex workers were in a desperate scramble for survival because bars are closed and the curfew prohibits them from moving about at night to carry out their craft.
She added that as the curfew continues, the situation has worsened for sex workers. Tikkun Olam Belize and its members have networked with various organizations and private donors. They claim they have even exchanged sexual services and companionship for in-kind food donations.
The organization’s humanitarian efforts have benefitted almost 25 cisgender sex workers, 14 LGBTQ households, 11 single mothers, 5 potential victims of human trafficking or migrants, 2 men in domestic violence circumstances, and over 83 children of ages months to just under 16 old.
“This came about as many sex workers applied for Social Security unemployment COVID-19 relief but were not selected, just as many, many were missed, neglected and even had their rights violated by Department of Human Services,” Castellanos said. “With the bars being closed sex workers are the only ones in the community that cannot find a way to make some income, but they allow weddings, that allow 40 people. I have never been to a bar that can fit 40 people.”
She noted that she intends to continue her advocacy work and will be reaching out to the Attorney General’s Ministry to convey the hardships that the lockdown measures are having on sex workers countrywide.
Tikkun Olam Belize is the only sex worker-led organization in the country, with 90 percent of its administrative board and members being active sex workers. During the pandemic, the organization has also been involved in court advocacy for sex workers who have suffered human rights violations.
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