The Kenyan government’s lockdown measures to limit the spread of Coronavirus- a dusk-to-dawn curfew and shutting of bars and nightclubs—have left sex workers into either work during the day and be very visible or to break the curfew at night.
The curfew has led to many sex workers going out business, but some have been forced to change their working hours. A spot check on Nairobi downtown streets shows that the workers are back in business.
With a change in schedules, the commercial sex workers have devised new means of adapting to the changing times. In a feature by Ebru TV, the commercial sex workers noted that they have been forced to reduced the prices of their services. Currently, a session goes for about Sh200. The reduction has been made in desperation to earn a living for meeting daily expenses.
On the other hand, they have been forced to look for clients in high-end hotels. One sex worker noted that in such facilities, they get a chance to be tested and also sanitized. They lamented that downtown lodgings do not have sanitation facilities. In most cases, clients are found in the downtown areas of Nairobi city.
With the sex workers lining up on the streets of Nairobi, authorities have been on their case over the social distancing regulations. According to the sex workers, the authorities are arresting them when they fail to provide bribes. In return, they have to bribe them through sex. One of the workers noted that they are forced to go with the officers at their homes where they are mistreated.
So far, more than 50 sex workers have been forcefully quarantined, and women have been arrested for not adhering to the social distancing rules and obligatory mask-wearing.
To cushion sex workers against hard economic times, about 57 Kenyan civil society and non-governmental organizations have drafted an advisory note to the Kenyan Government to urge it to put in place safety nets to cushion the communities and people who cannot afford to not work.
In the draft, the government has been urged to stop security forces from enforcing measures around social distancing and curfews.