CHICAGO (CBS) — About two dozen sex workers and their advocates demonstrated at Daley Plaza Wednesday afternoon, calling for decriminalization of the sex trade.
“We want the city of Chicago to back off,” said a sex worker who asked to be identified as “Red.”
“It can give us the ability to work around our children’s schedules, or our schools’ schedules, and charge the money that we know could give us a living wage, which so many jobs here in Chicago don’t get,” Red said. “We’re in our communities, we’re supporting our families, we’re students, and we’re trying to take care of ourselves the best way that we know how, and we’re tired of the harassment.”
Red and others also protested the decision by backpage.com to stop taking “adult” ads, which in this case mean ads for prostitution. The web site shut down its adult ad section this month after local and federal officials complained it facilitated criminal activity.
“I am working my straight job. And my ability to work and do sex work is completely compromised by Backpage shutting down right now,” Red said.
WBBM’s Steve Miller asked Red how much of a loss the decision by Backpage would mean.
“Hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month,” Red responded.
The sex workers said they want Backpage to restore adult ads.
A recent U.S. Senate report alleged the site “sanitized” ads for prostitution and child sex trafficking, by editing out words like “teen” or “Lolita,” which made it clear ads were about illegal sex. Backpage took down its adult advertising section last week, and company executives declined to testify before a U.S. Senate subcommittee about the report, invoking their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Prosecutors have alleged that more than 90 percent of Backpage’s revenue – millions of dollars each month – comes from adult escort ads that use coded language and nearly nude photos to offer sex for money.
Backpage has denied the allegations in the subcommittee report, and said it shut down its adult section to protest censorship.