On June 20, Chicago City Council quietly and unanimously passed a substitute ordinance that specifically outlaws “prostitution-related loitering.”
Introduced in November 2017 by Aldermen Joe Moore of Rogers Park and Jason Ervin of Garfield Park, the ordinance amends the city’s Municipal Code by adding Section 8-4-016. This new law imposes fines of $50-500, along with potential arrest and imprisonment, on individuals deemed by police to be engaged in “prostitution-related loitering.”
The new language also instructs the Superintendent of Police to “designate areas of the city in which enforcement of this section is necessary because the areas are frequently associated with prostitution-related loitering.” The ordinance also amends existing Section 8-8-060 to include more detail and specificity concerning “solicitation for prostitution.”
The ordinance was introduced in the wake of months of targeted harassment of both street-based sex workers and SWOP-Chicago outreach workers in Rogers Park, on the part of Alderman Moore and some residents.
On the advice of some members of the local social services community, the ordinance was revised prior to passage to lower potential fines for sex workers while raising them for customers, thus partially embracing an “end-demand” approach to policing sex work. While this “end-demand model” purports to transfer legal liability from workers to clients, in practice criminalizing our clientele harms sex workers by keeping our industry marginalized and our work environments unsafe.
By passing this ordinance, Chicago City Council compounds the harm inflicted on sex workers by SESTA/FOSTA, the Federal “anti-trafficking” legislation recently passed by Congress. While this legislation erases sex workers’ access to safer online means of conducting business, thereby forcing more workers on to the streets, the City of Chicago has now chosen to add to the danger faced by street-based workers by creating new levels of criminalization.
SWOP-Chicago joins our city’s harm-reduction community in opposing this new assault on the safety, livelihood, and self-determination of sex workers. The new and revised laws reflect the worst of both the dangerous criminalization of sex work, and paternalistic “rescue-based” treatment of workers. Only the full decriminalization of sex work can ensure safety and self-determination for individuals engaged in trading sexual services, whether by choice, circumstance, or coercion.