31 March 2020
The Government needs to take immediate action to provide emergency income for women and young people in prostitution during the COVID19 pandemic, says Ally-Marie Diamond, a spokeswoman for Wahine Toa Rising Aotearoa, a survivor-led organisation that advocates for support and exit services for women and young people in the sex trade in Aotearoa New Zealand. “We need action to protect the health of the general public as well as the women and young people currently in the sex trade,” said Ms. Diamond.
Women working in an Australian “massage parlour” were fined $1000 each recently after police inspecting businesses found the parlour to be still operating. “Similar things may happen in New Zealand,” said Ms. Diamond. “Many women in the sex trade don’t have the records and evidence that the Government requires to show what their earnings have been before having access to financial support, and many women in the sex trade in New Zealand are not New Zealand residents therefore may think they do not qualify for WINZ Payments.”
The New Zealand Prostitute’s Collective 1has advised women in the sex trade to take up “cam work” – online prostitution – or to apply for the dole. “We know that those options are dangerous or unrealistic for most women in the sex trade,” said Ms. Diamond. “Women who are trying to apply for WINZ payments are advising us that they just can’t get through. One woman in the sex trade has been trying for 4 days and still has not spoken to a WINZ representative.”
“The Government needs to set up an emergency service, a hotline perhaps, so women and young people in the sex trade can have direct and immediate access to financial assistance,” said Ms. Diamond. “That way they don’t feel like the only choice they have is to remain active in the sex trade to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. The Government needs to be supporting them, so they are not putting themselves, or others at risk.
Ms. Diamond says. “This is an emergency. The incentive to stay active in the sex trade needs to be removed. The Government must act now.”
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