Sex workers claim the Scottish Government is “condemning us to poverty” as a result of a lack of support during the coronavirus pandemic.
One anonymous sex worker hit out and said the stance of ministers was “nothing short of inhumane” throughout the crisis.
They hit out as a charity claimed sex workers had been “left to fall through the cracks” by the Government – resulting in some having “no choice” but to deal with “dangerous” clients”.
Anastacia Ryan, the founder of the charity Umbrella Lane said that MSPs should be “leading calls for the Government to provide emergency financial assistance to allow sex workers to adhere to the public health measures”.
Umbrella Lane co-ordinator Prerna Menon said: “Our project is inundated with cries for help from sex workers, fearing for their health but feeling forced to continue selling sexual services to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.”
They spoke out as one sex worker told how prior to Covid-19 they were “already in challenging situations due to facing continued stigma over our work choices”.
They added: “Being ordered not to work during a pandemic without help or financial support from the Government is condemning us to poverty, a further lack of choice, and guaranteed desperate situations which pose a greater risk to our safety and wellbeing.
“The Government’s hypocrisy in telling the nation to stay at home to save lives when they willingly and consistently turn a blind eye to the struggles of sex workers is nothing short of inhumane and deprives us of our basic rights to be afforded support during such catastrophic and unpredictable times.”
Meanwhile, a male sex worker in Edinburgh said: “The Government calls for isolation but how can I isolate when I have to pay my bills? When I have my tuition fees to pay for.
“Others have access to universal credit or furlough but as a migrant student sex worker I don’t have that option.”
He told ministers: “Please support organisations that will help us follow the regulations without starving or losing our homes. We need concrete help right now, not empty words.”
The comments come after a Scottish Government consultation on whether the current approach to dealing with prostitution is sufficient to prevent violence against women and girls.
Ms Ryan said changes resulting from that could reduce demand, financially impacting sex workers.
She stated: “For 12 months, sex workers have been left to fall through the cracks of financial support by the Scottish Government, then watched with dismay as their lives were debated by politicians in a recent government consultation on further ways to reduce demand.
“Coronavirus has already reduced clients seeking sexual services, driving sex workers into poverty and desperate situations where they have no choice but to accept business from people known to be dangerous.
“It is deplorable that the MSPs behind the recent consultation, who claimed to care for the welfare of women selling sex, are not leading calls for the Government to provide emergency financial assistance to allow sex workers to adhere to the public health measures.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We know that these challenging and unprecedented times are impacting those involved in prostitution and we continue to work with third sector partners to fully understand the impact of Covid-19 and encourage people to access mainstream and specialist support services available to them.
“Social Security such as Universal Credit and Housing Benefit is available to those eligible and other financial support, such as the Scottish Welfare Fund, is also available to those on low incomes.
“We’ve allocated more than £60,000 crisis funding to the Encompass Network to enable Covid-focused services for destitution support, trauma counselling, advocacy and to provide a bridge to national mainstream support.
“This fund remains open and is available to women who have been involved in selling or exchanging sex and are affected by the pandemic with no alternative options – this fund can be accessed privately and is not conditional on exiting prostitution.”