Bolivian Sex Workers in Times of the Pandemic

Life in the age of COVID-19 is undoubtedly not easy for many people worldwide. However, in countries where prostitution is legal, like Bolivia, sex workers are struggling to work and protect themselves.

Recent events that are happening with Bolivian sex workers in times of the pandemic offer unique insights. Some Bolivian workers are even trying to implement the use of “biosecurity suits” to cover their entire bodies. These new measures would allow them to work despite the restrictions. They would also get them off the streets. That way, they will keep working in an environment that they consider safe.

Take a look below to learn more about the life of sex workers in Bolivia during the pandemic.

How Does the Pandemic Affect the Economy?

Firstly, it’s worth taking a look at the global impact of this pandemic. The crisis has affected both major and minor industries. Many businesses are fearing bankruptcy and economic downfall. Also, millions of workers are unemployed. According to some experts, the crisis has caused the biggest recession in world history.

One of the most significant current events was the crash of the world stock market in February 2020. As another example, the tourism industry is also suffering. It may lose over 1 trillion dollars this year.

And when it comes to Bolivia, the effect of the crisis on sex workers is certainly noticeable. Recent affairs have also emphasized some coronavirus protection steps that sex workers have taken to try and get back in business.

Currently, Bolivia faces strict day- and night-time restrictions. These restrictions apply to most businesses. That also includes legal sex industry establishments, and the measures threaten the jobs of over 30,000 registered sex workers in the country.

Current COVID-19 Statistics at the Time of Writing

There are over 20 million COVID-19 cases worldwide. So far, nearly 750,000 people have passed away due to the virus.

What’s more, the number is rising unpredictably. In the first week of August, over 285,000 people have tested positive. Also, more than 6,800 have died.

As for Bolivia, the virus has taken around 3,900 lives. In total, there are about 95,000 recorded cases. The interim president, Jeanine Áñez, has also been infected.

According to statistics, the country has a 4% fatality rate. The recovery rate is approximately 34%. Recently, the government has extended the restrictions that were put in place several months ago. They are still to be followed nationwide through August. That includes the closure of schools, airports, and borders. What’s more, there is a night-time curfew from 18:00 to 5:00.

Why Are Sex Workers at Risk?

Sex workers face a state of legal limbo. Most of them do not have access to government support. Even in countries like Bolivia, where prostitution is allowed, workers may not have legal status. That can exclude them from any emergency measures or financial support.

Furthermore, the workers who depend on clubs and other institutions for their income have nowhere to work. And that is true for many countries, not just Bolivia. Conversely, others who can work in places where there are no safety measures face a tough decision — they can risk their lives at work every day or face poverty.

Generally, the problem arises when legalized sex workers are not treated like workers in other sectors. Also, due to contact tracing, anonymity is not possible, especially in countries like Switzerland. Here, any contact details and private information of clients has to be stored for over four weeks. It’s a harsh example of how the industry is changing.

In Bolivia, the strict curfew and day-time restrictions are essentially making it impossible for sex workers to operate. Some representatives for the Organization of Night Workers (OTN) have protested against the measures. They claimed that sex workers might have to move outside. They may have to work on the streets. The organization has stated that the consequence of that would be severe.

How Do Sex Workers in Bolivia Prepare to Go Back to Work?

Bolivian prostitutes and exotic dancers have caused quite a stir worldwide. Just last month, the internet was flooded with new reports of the OTN’s proposed security measures.

Namely, in July, the organization released a 30-page proposal. It features new safety regulations for night workers in Bolivia. The workers have also asked the government to ease the day-time restrictions.

Some of the proposed measures include working during the coronavirus with new equipment. The union has also released photos of sex workers wearing gloves and transparent bodysuits.

Many sex workers have shared pictures of their establishments. The photos showed off their new security measures and their “biosecurity suits.”

One prostitute shared pictures of her in a crotch-height transparent dress. It had an opening at the bottom, but the worker was also wearing a raincoat, eye mask, face mask, and a face shield on top. She also sprayed a bleach solution on the pole she uses to dance for her clients. Moreover, an OTN representative has said that their clients respect the issues. He claimed that the proposed security measures would also protect the clients.

The Takeaway

The future of the sex industry in Bolivia is still unclear. The government has not yet allowed any of the proposed measures. As mentioned, if the government does not lift at least some restrictions, there is a chance the sex workers will move their business to the streets. That could severely impact the safety of Bolivian citizens, and it could also lead to a spike in virus cases.