Carrying condoms could get you arrested.

Jaclyn Friedman has a good post up at Amplify about an initiative in D.C. that could literally get you arrested for prostitution charges if you’re caught carrying three or more condoms with you. In short, D.C. police are using their “Prostitution Free Zone” law to go as far as arresting women for carrying condoms in their purse. This is happening in New and San Francisco as well. She says:

Three. Three condoms. If you think there’s a chance you’re getting laid, and you’re sleeping with someone who has a penis, why would you ever pack fewer than three condoms? What if one rips when you take it out of the package? What if you want to do it (*GASP*) twice? Three condoms is not a lot of condoms, people. IMHO, it’s the bare minimum. I once used over a dozen in a particularly memorable weekend. And I still wasn’t a sex worker.

And what if I was? As has been pointed out elsewhere, all this law (and laws like it in NYC and San Francisco) are doing is encouraging sex workers to not carry condoms. You know what that’s going to do? It’s not going to reduce sex trafficking. It’s not going to improve the lives or working conditions of sex workers. It’s not going to lock up abusers or pimps. It’s going to spread disease. It’s going to increase the spread of STIs (including HIV) among sex workers and their clients. And those clients will spread it even further out into the general population. And those of us who aren’t sex workers but don’t feel like risking arrest en route to a hot date? Some of us are going to carry fewer condoms and catch and spread more disease, too. And those of us who carry lots of condoms so we can distribute them and help other people stay safe? Well, we’re obviously a criminal element, aren’t we?

This attempt at a “Prostitution Free Zone” is dangerous for sex workers in too many ways. Aziza Ahmed and Brook Kelly at RH Reality Check point out that not only will it merely convince sex workers they shouldn’t carry condoms, but pushes them out of safer, more commercial neighborhoods and into unsafe areas where they’re more vulnerable to harassment and assault. Community poster Nazza also offers some thoughts, who directs us to the original study on how damaging this law actually is.

The very idea that anyone could think forcing sex workers and those who aren’t to choose between being arrested and being sexually safe is somehow a benefit to society just confounds me.

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