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    Showing posts with label Sex Worker. Show all posts

    California Quietly Adopts Landmark Condom Law To Protect Sex Workers

    Last week, without fanfare or media attention, California became the first state in the nation to adopt a law aiming to protect sex workers from being prosecuted as prostitutes merely because they're carrying condoms. The police practice of targeting for arrest those in possession of multiple condoms undermines critical efforts to help this vulnerable population avoid sexually transmitted diseases, advocates for sex workers argue.

    The advocates applauded California's legislation as a step in the right direction, but they said the measure as written doesn’t go far enough.

    "It's great that the California Legislature has contemplated this issue and taken it seriously," Sienna Baskin, managing director of the New York-based Sex Worker Project at the Urban Justice Center, told The Huffington Post. "That said, I do think a more comprehensive bill would be more effective."

    The California legislation, which Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law on Sept. 19, requires a court to state explicitly that the presence of condoms is relevant to the individual case before prosecutors can use them as evidence of prostitution. The original bill, authored by California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would have banned the use of condoms entirely as evidence of prostitution, but it didn’t have the votes to pass.
    "Right now, there’s no process, and condoms are admitted into court even when they aren’t actual evidence," Wendy Hill, Ammiano’s senior legislative assistant, said to HuffPost. "There are very few cases [against sex workers] in which an actual condom is listed as a valid piece of evidence."

    A report released by Human Rights Watch in 2012 looked at prostitution cases in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington. It found that in all four cities, police officers frequently seized condoms from sex workers and used them as justification for arrest. "The practice makes sex workers and transgender women reluctant to carry condoms for fear of arrest, causes them to engage in sex without protection, and puts them at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases," stated the 112-page report, published in advance of that year's International AIDS Conference.

    Advocates for sex workers hope the additional legal requirement under California’s new law will act as a deterrent against specifically targeting those sex workers who carry condoms. "We believe that the process of having to seek a court’s permission on a repeated basis will ultimately prove too burdensome for many district attorneys to pursue," Whitney Engeran-Cordova, senior director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s public health division, said in a statement. "As a result, sex workers, prostitutes and others may now possess more than one condom without the current -- and rational -- fear of incriminating themselves."

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