Bolivian sex workers are preparing for life in the age of coronavirus with new equipment including gloves, bottles of bleach and see-through raincoats.
The thigh-skimming ‘biosecurity suits’ are among a number of recommendations in a 30-page coronavirus security manual drawn up by the Organization of Night Workers of Bolivia (OTN).
The group is pushing authorities to lift the day-time business restrictions put in place during the lockdown in the capital La Paz, even if a strict nighttime curfew still impedes their more habitual evening work.
Lily Cortes, a representative of Bolivia’s sex workers union, says some may have no option but to work on the streets if they could not work in the legal brothels.
Sex workers in Bolivia wear see-through protective suits during a demonstration of the safety precautions they will take at their jobs after the coronavirus lockdown
One sex worker, Antonieta, showed Reuters late last week how, in addition to donning a thong, a sequined eye-mask and a sheer, crotch-height dress for work, she could layer on top a paper face mask, plastic visor, gloves and a raincoat.
She gave a demonstration of how she sprays a bleach solution on the pole she uses to dance for clients at the brothel that she operates with several other women.
‘The biosecurity suit will allow us to work and protect ourselves,’ she said.
Perched on a heart-shaped leather bed in a nearby room another woman, Vanesa, a single mother to two children, said she had to work to be able to fund their studies.
She said she felt confident the changes proposed by the sex workers’ lobby would keep everyone happy.
‘Our clients respect the issue of safety, that we are taking these measures for our security, but also for theirs,’ she said.
Cortes, the union member, previously said that if the legal establishments cannot function, ‘unfortunately the sex workers will go out to work the streets and the result will be worse.’
‘We are also part of Bolivian society,’ said Cortes. ‘We are sex workers, women, aunts and grandmothers that also have to worry about our work hours.’
Sex workers in Bolivia are pushing authorities to lift the day-time business restrictions put in place during the lockdown in the capital La Paz
A sex worker takes off her shoes during a demonstration of the safety precautions they will take at their jobs to curb the spread of the coronavirus
The World Health Organization has said that, based on current evidence, the coronavirus cannot be sexually transmitted. However, some degree of close contact is unavoidable.
Bolivia has 48,187 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1,807 deaths, but medical experts say the real numbers of those infected could be many times higher.
Similar rules drawn up by Swiss sex workers in May called for masks to be worn if possible and people to keep ‘one forearm length apart’ during sex.
Anonymity is also a thing of the past in Switzerland, because clients’ personal details will have to be kept for four weeks in case they are needed for contact tracing.
The rules acknowledge that some of the Swiss government’s preferred outcomes such as plexiglass screens between customers and staff are not achievable in brothels.
However, ‘the argument that protective measures cannot be enforced in the sex industry does not hold true,’ a lobby group said in a letter to the government.
Many protective measures in brothels or smaller studios can be inspected by the police if necessary, they wrote.
Sex positions cannot be monitored in this way but the same is true of private dealings between people and their doctors or therapists, they argued.