Monday, January 11, 2010
Carry three condoms and be arrested for prostitution in Washington DC...
In Washington D.C., police can declare "Prostitution Free Zones" where officers can pick up (I mean, arrest) anyone suspected of sex work. And they've been accused of using carrying three or more condoms as proof of intent to sell sex -- rather than intent to spend the weekend getting jiggy with a guy.
But as RH Reality Check points out, the real danger of this practice falls to people who actually are sex workers. [Update: due to some confusion in articles that have picked this story up, we've changed the term "law" to "practice," since by "law" we intended to refer to the declaration of Prostitution Free Zones, as distinguished from the enforcement practice of using condoms as evidence.] It pushes them to abandon safe sex techniques, putting their own health at risk as well as that of the general population. Add to this the fear of arrest or harassment that keeps sex workers from seeking health care, and you have a recipe for disaster. Everybody should know by now that the nation's capital has a rampant problem with HIV/AIDS; this backwards practice contributes to its spread (at three times the rate that characterizes a severe epidemic). It's not like you can expect the johns to bring their own rubbers.
This practice prioritizes making commercial areas look clean and pretty lady-free, not protecting the public's health. But the root of the problem isn't this one practice: it's the criminalization of sex work. If you want to criminalize something, stick to pimping -- after all, many of these women have been trafficked unwillingly and subjected to violence. If they weren't so afraid of being arrested for stepping forward to condemn their pimps, we'd have a better chance of finding the true criminals in this situation.
Washington DC will be the laughing stock of the free world - carrying three or more condoms makes you a prostitute? Come on you woolly woofters!
Come to New Zealand where prostitution is legal, girls and boys! LOL