Back in July, the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) held a webinar to launch a new harm reduction resource we developed in collaboration with GOSHH in Limerick and Sexual Health Centre in Cork. The information card provides practical advice for anyone selling or trading sex on the street or outdoors during the pandemic and was created by a group which included current street workers, other sex workers and support workers with experience in this area.
When the pandemic started, harm reduction guidelines appeared online with advice for sex workers who continued in-person sex work out of necessity. Here in SWAI, our outreach worker Becky joined up with Billie, the support worker in GOSHH, as they realised that there was nothing available with specific information for people working on the street. More people joined the group and, in writing the guidelines, we focused on simple steps people could take to reduce the risk of COVID transmission, to protect themselves when selling sex. There is no way to guarantee safety when you’re in close contact but people still need to make money and these are just some tips for keeping yourself safer while working. The tips are also not just relevant for sex workers, they can be useful for anyone because, of course, people are still having sex even in a global pandemic! The information can be especially helpful for anyone meeting others for sex outdoors or in cars.
The leaflet is COVID-19 specific so all of the advice is focused on reducing the risk of contracting COVID but this needs to be taken into consideration alongside protecting yourself in terms of your overall health and physical safety. Sex workers are used to risk assessing and making judgements for their own safety, and often go by gut instinct. This new information isn’t supposed to override all of that and we always stress that your immediate physical safety takes priority.
On the back of the card we have included some facts about the law. We know from experience and discussions with other street workers that not everyone knows what the laws around sex work are, including the Gardaí! Since 2017, selling sex on the street is legal but paying for sex is not. It is also illegal to work indoors with other people but you are allowed to work inside alone. The Gardaí were given new powers at the start of the pandemic which allowed them to move on and even arrest people who were not complying with lockdown orders. These laws have now been rescinded but currently on-the-spot fines exist for people found breaking COVID regulations. However, you should not be getting in trouble or arrested for street working otherwise and if you are having any issues with this you can contact us for advice and support.
SWAI is a sex-worker led organisation working towards giving a voice to people who are in sex work by choice, circumstance or coercion. We believe that sex workers know what is best for us and are best placed to advocate in the policies that affect our lives. We also work to provide support to any sex workers who need it whether they work indoor, outdoor, online or another section of the industry. We have peer support available so that you can speak to someone who has a similar experience, without any judgement. We can help with a range of issues including legal, immigration, accessing addiction or housing and homeless services, health, or if you want to look at leaving sex work and need support.
If you want to contact us you can call Becky on: 085 824 9305 or email [email protected]
Here is a link to the resource and if you are interested in attending a webinar about this issue please get in contact with us Leaflet Print ready v2