COVID-19 and Cape Towns Homeless Transgender Sex Workers

A still from the short film, COVID-19 and Cape Town's Homeless Transgender Sex Workers.

 The GALA Queer Archive, with the generous support of SAIH, commissioned a short film looking into the experiences of homeless transgender sex workers across Cape Town. In different areas across Cape Town, there are communities of homeless trans sex workers living under bridges, on open fields or wherever they can find a space in which to set up home. These women live in areas including Langa, District Six and around the Parliamentary precinct. The Covid-19 pandemic, South Africa’s national state of disaster and the country being put under lockdown has had significant impacts on these women – and not only financially.

Thembi, for example, was taken to the City of Cape Town’s controversial Strandfontein facility for homeless people. Here she was subjected to verbal discrimination and attacks (based on her gender identity and race) from other homeless people. Once the facility was taken down, she was taken, along with other homeless people, to another facility. It was here that she contracted the coronavirus.

What can you do to support the homeless, transgender, sex workers living in Cape Town?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, vulnerable communities are the first to feel the economic, health and social, effects, getting little to no assistance from the government. Sex workers have been particularly hard hit as they have been unable to make any income during lockdown. The effects are far reaching and extend beyond the lifting of lockdown restrictions. 

The short film looks at the experiences of these women during the lockdown broadly while also acknowledging the important work of the civil society organisations that have been putting in the work to support the people in their respective communities and networks. 

To get to know these organisations, and to support the the important work they do, see the following links:

Gender DynamiX:

The Triangle Project:

SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce):

Thanks to Carl Collison for putting this film together.

This film was commissioned to be part of GALA’s project, Queer Lockdown: COVID-19 and Queer Life in South Africa. As we collectively experience the ongoing physical, mental, social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, GALA is committed to recording and collecting stories and experiences of how the pandemic is effecting queer people in South Africa, and the African continent more broadly. This project is centered around giving a visibility to queer life and narratives during these uncertain times.

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