When police in New York state arrest women for prostitution, they often use possession of condoms as evidence that she's selling her body. But now, a new law being considered may outlaw the practice of using prophylactics as proof of engaging in the world's oldest profession.
Turns out, assuming condoms equal sex-for-hire is not only false, it's dangerous. It can lead to trumped-up charges and law enforcement abuse, for one thing; as Anna reported earlier this month, a transsexual woman arrested for a minor offense says police falsely claimed that she was carrying condoms and thus must be a prostitute. Either that or a sailor — the filthy port-hoppers.
The ability of the state to admit condoms as evidence in prostitution trials not only endangers plain old non-prostitutes who happen to be carrying condoms, it discourages sex workers from protecting themselves. The New York Times reports that prostitutes are often arrested and booked on the grounds that they're out at night and carrying condoms, and then have their condoms confiscated before they're released out into the streets again. As a result, they're hesitant to carry protection at all. It doesn't take a public health expert to know that this is bad news for the sex worker, her client, and anyone else her client may be sleeping with.
The law currently being considered by a New York State legislative committee. It would ban the admission of condoms as evidence of prostitution in criminal court. Similar measures have been introduced every year since 1999, and they've all died in committee, but this time, the bill's framers are optimistic.
This measure is long-overdue, especially since condoms are so ubiquitous nowadays that the only thing carrying them is evidence of is the fact that the bearer is probably not a eunuch. Besides, the only real evidence that a woman is having sex for money is if she uses birth control pills or holds hands with someone outside of marriage.
Bill in Albany would bar condoms as evidence of prostitution [NYT]