Amid a surge in inflation and a housing crisis in Turkey, LGBTQ+ sex workers are facing steep rent hikes and the threat of eviction. A non-binary worker, identified as Nina, is worried about paying the increased monthly rent of 8,000 Turkish Lira ($425) in addition to rising bills for utilities, internet, and phone. Although the government imposed a 25% cap on annual rent rises in June 2022, average rents in Turkey rose by 69% and 85% in Istanbul. However, sex workers who operate out of their homes face a ban on prostitution outside of government-certified brothels, limiting their options to report illegal rent rises.
LGBTQ+ sex workers must pay the increased rent, as it is unsafe to live outside of areas known as gay and transgender-friendly districts. According to data collected by Transgender Europe, Turkey has the highest figure of trans murders in Europe with 62 recorded since 2008. Advocacy groups say that LGBTQ+ people face open discrimination and increased pressure from the government, which is trying to force trans sex workers out of the center through increased police pressure, sealing their houses, and gentrification projects.
A member of the advocacy group Red Umbrella, Melis Arslan, reports a spike in reports of sex workers struggling with housing during the economic crisis. Sex workers are at risk of eviction and are forced to find new housing options, putting them in a more vulnerable position. Nina fears that landlords are exploiting the economic crisis to take advantage of an already disadvantaged community. “The current system is breaking already fragile LGBT people and sex workers, making us more vulnerable,” they said.