The New York City Police Department (NYPD) announced changes Monday to their policy of using condoms as evidence of sex work, but advocates maintain that practice should be put to rest rather than modified. Under the revised policy, officers will no longer confiscate condoms from suspected sex workers in order to use them as evidence in individual prostitution cases, but can still seize condoms as evidence in cases where someone is suspected sex trafficking and promotion of prostitution.
While this is an important change, advocates say the NYPD should stop confiscating condoms at all. “This is a step in the right direction but it doesn’t go far enough and creates a loophole big enough to drive a truck through,” Andrea Ritchie, a coordinator at Streetwise and Safe, told the Associated Press. “We will be monitoring the NYPD carefully to see how they implement this policy.”
Opponents of the former NYPD policy have long criticized it for contributing to police harassment and undermining efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. A 2012 Human Rights Watch (HRW) study found that as a result of the condom confiscation and arrest policy, sex workers and transgender women who are often profiled as sex workers in New York City “feared carrying condoms either for use with clients or with other sexual partners, and sometimes engaged in unprotected sex.” Another HRW report found that condom confiscation policies and police harassment of sex workers in Louisiana may be contributing to the state’s high HIV/AIDS rates.
“A policy that inhibits people from safe sex is a mistake and dangerous,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a recent event announcing the changes.
Media Resources: Associated Press 5/12/14; RH Reality Check 5/13/14; Human Rights Watch 6/25/13; Feminist Newswire 12/18/13