May 31, 2013
Pick up a free condom from one NYC government agency, and get thrown in jail for having it by another. That’s been life for New Yorkers for years, but it’s finally going to change.
Prosecutors will no longer use having condoms as evidence against you in a prostitution case. It’s about damn time, as this policy perfectly exemplifies how police and prosecutors victimize vulnerable people by enforcing laws against victimless crimes. Why in the world would you want to discourage sex workers from holding and using condoms when doing so vastly increases their risk of getting and spreading HIV and other STIs?
Now police have been instructed to stop confiscating condoms. Of course, they have also been instructed to stop unconstitutionally racially profiling people, and you see how well that worked.
And we’re not out of the water yet. The New York Times talked with to the New York Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne. “We do not rule out their evidentiary value when going after pimps and sex traffickers,” Browne said. “If there is a bowlful of condoms in a massage parlor, we want our officers to be able to seize them as evidence against the trafficker.”
UGH! Would you rather the “massages” be given bareback? Because that’s all you’re going to accomplish. If you think you can eradicate the world’s oldest profession by going undercover, getting touched and then thinking about making an arrest (yes, this happens on the regular) then I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
You do not need to confiscate a bowl full of condoms to convict someone of human trafficking. You can usually just, ya know, talk to one of the sex slaves.
Unfortunately, no one is listening to the sex workers. We’re now seeing a shift, thankfully, against locking women up for selling sex. But what it’s being replaced with isn’t much better. Now we’re prosecuting regular pimps for human trafficking.
Right now, the Manhattan DA is trying to charge two pimps with trafficking, which may put them in prison for up to 25 years. But two of their “slaves” are actually testifying in their pimps’ defense, saying they willingly participated. One of them described their relationship as “family.” One defendant, Vincent George, apparently supported her and the daughter they have together for years after she gave birth and took a break from sex work.
That this DA is using laws meant to protect people from being enslaved to strip women of their agency to make economic choices and to impose draconian sentences on their families and business associates is completely inappropriate.
This whole idea that someone has to pay because sex work makes us uncomfortable needs serious and immediate re-evaluation. Policies like condom confiscation and prosecutions like the aforementioned do nothing to solve the real problems, but they do ruin lives. Black market sex work makes life more dangerous for the workers and makes differentiating willing sex workers and slaves more difficult. We need to legalize sex work, and we need to stop working against and start working alongside sex workers to find and rescue the true slaves.
Photo by indi.ca