Negotiating Multiple Risks: Health, safety, and well-being among internal migrant sex workers in Brazil during COVID-19


  • Dr Angelo Martins Jr
  • Larissa Brito
  • Thiago Pizzo Scatena



sex work, COVID-19, internal migrants, Brazil


During the COVID-19 pandemic, experts called attention to the fact that the pandemic was disproportionately affecting socially vulnerable groups. Research suggested that structural inequalities resulted in unequal access to healthcare and that infection prevention measures increased precarious working conditions in illegal, informal, or unregulated sectors, such as the sex industry. This article reports on research findings that examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives and working conditions of 25 women internal migrant sex workers in the city of Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. It demonstrates that the pandemic and measures to control it severely impacted the lives of internal migrant sex workers, their affective and work relationships, as well as their income, safety, and physical and mental health. Furthermore, sex workers suffered from disturbing levels of violence and precariousness as well as a lack of effective policies aimed at protecting their health and well-being. This was exacerbated by the stigma, lack of labour rights, and the fact that they were migrants, which impacted them financially and emotionally during movement restrictions.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Dr Angelo Martins Jr

Dr Angelo Martins Jr is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology, University of Birmingham. He has carried out extensive research into how differences of ‘race’, class and gender, rooted in colonial histories, are constantly being re-created and negotiated in the everyday making of inequalities faced by marginalised and criminalised populations (i.e., migrants, informal workers, and sex workers).

Larissa Brito

Larissa Brito is a Lawyer and President of the NGO Vitória Régia – Feminist Support Center, in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. She has a long history of being part of social movements to combat violence against women and racial inequality, and to guarantee the rights of sex workers and people living with HIV.

Thiago Pizzo Scatena

Thiago Pizzo Scatena is a Researcher associated to the Council of Architecture and Urbanism of the State of São Paulo (CAU/SP). He holds a BA in Social Science from the Federal University of São Carlos, and an MA in Urbanism from the University of São Paulo. He has a long professional career linked to project management in the third sector, working primarily on projects concerned with the protection of vulnerable populations, urban environment, urban mobility, and public health.




How to Cite

Martins Jr, A., Brito, L., & Scatena, T. P. (2023). Negotiating Multiple Risks: Health, safety, and well-being among internal migrant sex workers in Brazil during COVID-19. Anti-Trafficking Review, (21), 71–86.