Wed | Aug 12, 2020

COVID cleanness hard in a dirty business

Published:Monday | July 6, 2020 | 12:26 AM
The flashing lights of a police service vehicle patrolling the Cross Roads red-light district indicate that business hours have ended for sex workers last Friday night.
The flashing lights of a police service vehicle patrolling the Cross Roads red-light district indicate that business hours have ended for sex workers last Friday night.

Sex workers in Kingston and Portmore have relaxed strict sanitisation protocols to offer less physical services as they adapt to changing norms amid the coronavirus pandemic.

At Port Henderson Road, the unofficial red-light district of Portmore, sex workers admitted that they were increasingly at risk of contracting COVID-19 to earn a buck.

They generally wore no masks and had limited, if any, sanitiser.

“You haffi just try protect yuhself, don’t? Yuh nah go know [who has COVID-19]. Anuh every time me wear mask, still, but yuh haffi try protect yuhself and use Father God,” said one sex worker.

“Is a little bottle (of sanitiser) mi did have, and it finish last night. Mi nuh have none now, but me have me wipes,” she said, detailing that she offered customised services to clients who were conscious of social-distancing health concerns.

One of the sex workers told The Gleaner that coronavirus-containment measures have forced her to not hit the streets as often.

“Mi deh home with my child. Every night yuh can’t deh ya suh,” she said.

Sex-work services in the red-light district stretching from Cross Roads to New Kingston range from $2,000-$4,000.

The national curfew has wreaked havoc on incomes as traffic has been sparse for much of the last three months. But the reopening of industries has brought a windfall for sex workers — in-between cat-and-mouse skirmishes with the police.

Last Friday, by 11 p.m., the blue flashing lights on the service vehicles were a telltale sign that business hours were closed. Prostitution is illegal in Jamaica but is rarely prosecuted by the police.

Third-party beneficiaries such as vendors and pimps said the resurgence of prostitution meant a revival of revenues for all.

“Inna weh day, nothing nah gwaan, road empty, but with the extension of the curfew hours, the street can close a little later,” a vendor told The Gleaner while packing up to leave the streets.

“Everybody can have something at the end of the night.”

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com