Bolivian Sex Workers Bet On See-Through ‘Biosecurity’ Raincoats

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A sex worker wears a plastic suit inside the private club Las Muñecas during the presentation of a protocol with measures to halt the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on July 3, 2020 in La Paz, Bolivia. (Photo by Gaston Brito/Getty Images)
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By Monica Machicao

LA PAZ, Bolivia, Mon. July 14, 2020 (Reuters) – Bolivian sex workers in the capital La Paz are preparing for life in the age of the coronavirus with new equipment, including bottles of bleach, gloves and see-through raincoats, all of which they say will help them resume work safely.

The thigh-skimming “biosecurity suits” are among a number of recommendations in a 30-page coronavirus security manual drawn up by the Organization of Night Workers of Bolivia (OTN).

The group is pushing authorities to lift the day-time business restrictions put in place during the lockdowns, even if a strict nighttime curfew still impedes their more habitual evening work.

Lily Cortes, a representative of Bolivia’s sex workers union, told Reuters in March that some women may have no option but to work on the streets if they could not work in cooperative-run brothels. Prostitution is legal in Bolivia, but procuring it is not. One sex worker, Antonieta, showed Reuters late last week how, in addition to donning a thong, a sequined eye-mask and a sheer, crotch-height dress for work, she could layer on top a paper face mask, plastic visor, gloves and a raincoat.

She gave a demonstration of how she sprays a bleach solution on the pole she uses to dance for clients at the brothel that she operates with several other women.

“The biosecurity suit will allow us to work and protect ourselves,” she said.

Perched on a heart-shaped leather bed in a nearby room another woman, Vanesa, a single mother to two children, said she had to work to be able to fund their studies.

She said she felt confident the proposed changes would keep everyone happy. “Our clients respect the issue of safety, that we are taking these measures for our security, but also for theirs,” she said.

Bolivia has 48,187 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1,807 deaths, but as one of the countries where the fewest number of tests are being carried out, medical experts say the real numbers of those infected could be many times higher.

The World Health Organization has said that, based on the current evidence, the coronavirus cannot be sexually transmitted.

(Reporting by Monica Machicao; Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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