Global Effects of COVID-19, government restrictions and implications for sex workers: A focus on Africa

Rosie Campbell, Teela Sanders, Rahma Hassan, Susan Gichuna, Mercy Mutonyi, Peninah Mwangi


There has been an unusually high media reporting of the impact on sex workers across the globe in relation to Covid -19 and related government lockdown, movement restrictions and reduced employment. This paper utilises a media analysis which examined N=541 media articles identified for the period 1st March to 31st May. N=103 of these focused on different countries in Africa and n=43 articles had a Kenyan focus. The media analysis is important as it is a lens through which sex workers are constructed, discourses are reinforced and knowledge is transferred throughout the globe.  In this paper we reflect on: 1) The global effects on sex workers to show generic trends around economic impacts and health care across the global north and south; 2) core themes which affected sex workers daily lives across the African continent such as changes in mobility in cities and across borders, reduced movements, police interactions and violence, homelessness; 3) outline some of the global and localised responses from sex worker rights organisation, support projects and NGO's, in the absence of government safety nets. These media reports have illuminated the crisis experienced by sex workers during the period of initial first wave occurrences of Covid in countries globally and governmental measures to suppress the virus. These reductions in income, access to health care and medicines and challenges for housing will persist for some time with devastating effects on an already vulnerable and marginalised community.  

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