Female Sex Workers Association in Malawi (FSWA) has warned that the coronavirus lockdown announced by government will have dire consequences on vulnerable groups such as women and girls, the elderly, unemployed persons and sex workers as their married clients will be stuck home.
In a statement signed by executive director Zinenani Lucy Majawa says sex workers in the country feel the lockdown was made in a hurry without proper consulations with relevant stakeholders and without puttting in place measures to caution the poor, unemployed people, and the vulnerable groups.
Majawa says the organisation was formed to advocate for the respect, protection and promotion of the rights of female sex workers in Malawi.
“We strongly suspect that the lockdown measure was made in a hurry without proper consultations with relevant stakeholders.
“We would like to remind the government of Malawi that sex work is work and female sex workers as any human being have families and responsibilities that require their attention as such imposing lockdown without considering the survival of the most vulnerable groups including female sex workers, migrants, refugees, women and girls, LGBTQ persons, unemployed people is a violation of human rights,” reads the statement.
FSWA has implored government to act in accordance with human rights standards in their response to COVID-19 and uphold the principles of equality and non-discrimination.
” Decisions should be made by taking into consideratuon the most marginalized people; women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, people with compromised health, rural people, unhoused people, institutionalized people, LGBT+ people, refugees and migrants,” it says.
The statement says it is critical that the government takes a human rights and intersectional based approach to ensure that everyone has access to necessary information, support systems and resources during the current crisis.
“As FSWA we have recognized some key areas of focus to be considered in the context of the COVID-19 crisis… recommendations that address the practical experiences of people in vulnerable position especially women and girls that endure a disproportionate impact due to their sex, gender, and sexual orientation and steer policymakers toward solutions that do not exacerbate their vulnerabilities or magnify existing inequality and ensure their human rights,” says Kajawa in the statement.
The organisation has listed a number of demands is relation to health care, economic issues, gender based viiolence for government to implement to reduce the impact of the lockdown on people and most vulnerable groups.
Some of the demands include increase availability and delivery of healthcare services, medical supplies, and medications to people.
FWSA has also demanded that governemnt should ensure women’s timely access to necessary and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services during the crisis, such as emergency contraception and safe abortion and Maintainance of an adequate stock of menstrual hygiene products at healthcare and community facilities
FSWA is also calling upon government to train medical staff and frontline social workers to recognize signs of domestic violence and provide appropriate resources and services ,support rehabilitation centers to remain open for people with disabilities and chronic illness.
“As a country we expect a massive strain on the public health system due to the spread of the virus, and this can lead to decreased maternal health and increased infant mortality rates,” it says in the statement.g
FSWA has also demanded that government should implement moratoriums on rental payments or negotiate with landlords to consider not collecting rentals from their tenants for the period of the lockdown
” Government should provide financial support to unhoused people, refugees, and women’s shelters and also increase social cash transfer to the elderly people, orphans and other vulnerable children and people with physical disabilities,” read some of the demands.
FSWA has also demanded that government distribute packages with necessities including soap, disinfectants, and hand sanitizer to people.