Arrested for carrying condoms

Go read this piece about how the NYPD can arrest you for carrying condoms and someone please explain to me in what universe any of this makes sense. Trans and carrying condoms? You must be a prostitute, and condoms are the proof! Wearing a tight t-shirt and carrying condoms? You must be a prostitute, and condoms are the proof! A sex worker who is trying to keep herself safe in her work? You are actually a prostitute, so go to jail, or at the very least get your condoms taken away so your work is more dangerous. The condoms-as-evidence policy serves absolutely no one.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Class, Crime, Discrimination, Feminism, GLBTQ, Health, Labor, Law, Politics, Reproductive Rights, Sex, Trans and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Arrested for carrying condoms

  1. Oh my God! Is this serious? How on God’s earth can this be legal? It makes zero sense in this day and age. Condoms as evidence, evidence of what exactly? Wanting to be safe having sex? Wanting not to get an STD? Carrying condoms is evidence of nothing. We have to stick together through things like this and fight back.

  2. Mike says:

    Not new; the SFPD’s been using this incredibly awful policy for years. Pretty sure I’ve read about other jurisdictions doing the same thing.

    But then everything related to the way the police enforce prostitution laws strikes me as awful; including the laws themselves. We really need to fix the way we view prostitution; leave people alone that engage in this in a consensual way. Go after anyone that forces someone into prostitution or assaults a prostitute with the full force of the law… without stigmatizing the prostitute.

  3. Rhoanna says:

    Because no one made it illegal, and the courts are doing a slow/shitty job protecting people’s Fourth Amendment rights, when it comes to violations by the NYPD.

  4. Donna L says:

    I’ve heard about this for years, and it’s horrifying. If you’re a “visibly” trans woman, particularly a WOC, being arrested for “walking while trans,” on suspicion of loitering for purposes of prostitution, is something you’re in danger of constantly. Especially if you happen to be carrying a condom. And if you’re with a guy, it’s assumed that he’s a customer. (Because trans women are mostly hookers anyway, and what guy would actually have one as his girlfriend, right?)

  5. Kes says:

    It’s an ongoing problem we’ve been having in DC, too.

    I agree with the implication in the article that it’s basically an excuse for cops to harass certain “kinds” of people. We’ve still got all these judges who just can’t figure out why “good” girls might carry condoms, like they’re just supposed to be sort of surprised and embarrassed when their husband explains prophylactics on their wedding night or something.

  6. Last time I talked to my legislators, S323 was headed into committee. It’s been out of judiciary committee and sent to rules, accordingly to the link in Molly Crabapple’s story, for a year now. Does anyone have any more specific information? Is it headed for a floor vote?

  7. Tyris says:

    And following the chain of links through to here, we can see that people have been trying to get this crap changed since… nineteen-fucking-ninety-nine? What in the blue blazes? How firmly attached can policy makers be to one bad idea?

    • EG says:

      Yep. Every time it comes up, all I can think is that it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.

  8. Emolee says:

    The policy is dead wrong, and the way they are enforcing it is disgusting. The fact that NYC also distributes condoms just adds a whole other layer of unbelievable unfairness (distributing condoms is a good thing, but doing so and then arresting people who carry them is all kinds of messed up).

  9. Scott Cunningham says:

    I don’t think this is actually the law where I live in Ontario, but there’ve been a few times classmates of mine have been subjected to arbitrary police wallet checks for condoms, which they had because their boyfriends sometimes “forgot” to bring their own. People I’ve known have missed classes because of it.

    Sometimes police swap notes with law enforcement in other jurisdictions, too, and decide on their own to start following policies set elsewhere that aren’t even legal in their jurisdiction, including arresting people for things that aren’t actually crimes here.

    • but there’ve been a few times classmates of mine have been subjected to arbitrary police wallet checks for condoms

      What!

    • Ens says:

      Is this high school or University?

      Not okay either way, but I’m still curious. I’m pretty sure this has never happened to my former classmates.

      Prostitution isn’t even illegal in Canada, for god’s sake. Else the recent ruling legalizing actual brothels in Ontario wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense… (which last I heard is still pending appeal).

    • anon1221 says:

      Hello fellow Canadian!

      (Disclaimer that this is not legal advice) Section 8 of the Charter protects against “unreasonable search or seizure” where one has a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. A search without a warrant is presumed to be unreasonable. (Source R. v. Cole, 2012 SCC 53, searchable here: canlii.org)

      so what you describe is troubling! you or your classmates may want to consult a legal advice clinic (hopefully this isn’t too much of a derail! Sorry if it is).

  10. Tara says:

    This has gotta be the dumbest thing ever. Even those who want prostitution to remain illegal should be able to figure out that using condoms as “evidence” will only discourage condom use, not prostitution. All this accomplishes is spreading AIDS and other STD’s.

    Note also how it conveniently targets the (mostly female) prostitutes, not the (mostly male) customers.

  11. Gorb says:

    Here’s a perspective.

    I work in documentary film and have covered issues like this for news programs. I’ve noticed a shocking consistency when it comes to who proposes and approves of these laws.

    The problem is, there’s an unholy alliance between hard-core social conservatives, law enforcement out of control and the largest segment, a core group of women (and men) who call themselves “feminists” (of a kind) who think these laws are necessary to protect women from being “prostituted” and that anything done in this quest is good and true.

    I’m thinking of Gail Dines and the incredible number of feminists who aggressively advocate for these prosecutions and who also claim to be concerned for the rights of women. I once interviewed Julie Bindell on this subject, and her opinion was that no excess was too much if it protected women and shut down prostitution. For her, and for many others, it was a holy war in a quest to fiercely delineate the terms of sexual relations and make sure they followed a very strict dynamic. They did this to protect women. However, it made for strange bedfellows.

    This is as serious as the “culture wars” between pro/anti porn/sex feminisms in the 1990s, and is populated by more or less the exact same cast of characters. There are e few new ones, younger ones, but the arguments are more or less identical, but with potentially nastier repercussions.

    Unfortunately, one side has claimed virtually all public space and makes up a majority of vocal advocacy groups. And, to say the least, these people are not civil libertarians.

    Any non-prostitute women arrested are likely just acceptable collateral damage to these people. And prostitutes themselves are just feckless, body-selling idiots who need protection from themselves.

    As a man, I couldn’t say anything about this and was shouted down immediately – and most men fely powerless to speak out, as well. We had no right to make any kind of comment, and if we did, we were told we support the serial rape of women (prostitutes). I suggested at a public conference where I was shooting that policies like this were overzealous and most of these laws were needlessly persecutorial in any case, and likely entirely unjustified – the war on prostitutes being an assault on women –

    myself and a substantial group of women (and a couple of men) were hounded out.

    What’s interesting is that those that remained included fundamentalist Christians, very angry and debate-dominating “housewives” (as my female companion called them – not me) who were likely also republican, three members of a well-funded women’s advocacy center, all of them self-declared socialists, members of a non-major urban environmental coalition I’d never heard of and have never heard of since, and a catholic religious organization.

    When I later pointed out that this made strange bedfellows, if not an evil alliance, one of the women said that this just showed how women’s rights issues transcended politics and identity and even joined with urban planning problems, and how we can all benefit by working together to create a better urban fabric.

    She had no response when I pointed out that the only thing all of these groups had in common was that they sought to deny female agency and infantilized women to the point of incarceration and persecution. They were being stripped of rights for “self-protection”. This was the sole meeting point, There was no other.

    How this kind of ideological corruption made cops different from Saudi Sharia enforcers I don’t know.

    This group of women had harsh words for feminists, including my partner at the time, who disagreed with them. One even called her a patriarchy enabler.

    It was shocking. I felt like I was at either a religious rally or a 1930’s Chinese Communist Party “session”; it was virtually impossible to tell the pro groups from each other.

    Quite disappointing.

    Needless to say, there was no free debate for the rest of the conference. The women and civil liberties seminar two days later was populated by everyone who hadn’t been welcome at the first seminar – and none of those who had went to the first one.

    I fear public debate on this issue will be similar.

    • Donna L says:

      None of this surprises me in the least. Given that the exact same “unholy alliance” (Julie Bindel included) exists with respect to eliminating whatever rights trans people have, and preventing them from gaining any more. And some trans people end up being “eliminated” themselves as a result, that’s not such a bad thing either.

    • tomek says:

      Moderator Note: Way off-topic tangent deleted. You are invited to take that tangent to #spillover, Tomek.

  12. Pingback: The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (120): The Crime of Carrying Condoms | P.a.p.-Blog, Human Rights Etc.

  13. shfree says:

    For YEARS I was carrying at least one condom as a matter of course, just because you never know. And the idea that cops are arresting people simply for looking out for their health is patently offensive.

  14. anon1221 says:

    Absolutely horrible.

    “Do they want us to die?” Yeah. It bloody well appears that way

  15. Angie unduplicated says:

    Every condom carrying woman in NY should be out in the streets with a blown-up condom on a stick, protesting this law. Such a protest would make SlutWalk look like a block party. Condoms are a survival item in rape culture. Who’s game to organize this one?
    Southern pols and police may have the collective IQ of a pine stump, but I’ve never heard of this happening below the Mason-Dixon. Down here, actual transactions are required to prove prostitution, if only because the general dumbass of cops vs the profusion of lawyers would waste so many hours of court time and taxpayer dollars.

  16. t says:

    The amount of rage I feel reading this… I can’t even.

  17. Radiant Sophia says:

    I’m surprised this is news in the country with the largest prison population in the world. Any reason to arrest and fine or imprison “undesirables” is acceptable to those in charge. If it wasn’t condoms, it would be something else.

  18. UPDATE in NY this is now S1379 in the Senate, and A2736 in the Assembly. If you’re a NY voter, it never hurts to call your legislators and tell them you support a bill. I call mine, early and often.

  19. legislative staff says:

    I’m normally a lurker but I work in the NYS legislature so I wanted to give some background in response to the question about status, floor votes, etc. It’s not good news, but it’s better than before:

    -The bill is almost 20 yrs old. Starting in 1994, it was referred to the Codes Committee in both Houses. Codes has jurisdiction over any bill related to criminal penalties.

    -From 1995 to 2011, neither House moved it from Committee. The only attempt came in 1996, when it was held in Assembly Codes. Held means there weren’t enough votes in the room to pass it. Rather than have it defeated on the record, it gets withdrawn so the sponsor can make amendments, lobby Members, etc.

    -In 2011, due to some new Senate procedural rules, Senator Montgomery was able to get it onto a Codes agenda. It passed and was referred to Judiciary Committee, where it died.

    -In 2012 it started in Senate Judiciary rather than Codes. Using the same procedures, it was put on a Judiciary agenda where it passed and went to Senate Rules (more on that shortly.)

    -In 2012 it actually passed Assembly Codes, Assembly Rules, and was ready for a vote of the full House. It never got one. But this was the furthest it’s gone in either House.

    -So 2012 ended with the bill dead in Senate Rules and without an Assembly vote. Rules is not subject to the procedural tactics previously used to advance it in the Senate. It’s also the unofficial holding cell for anything the Senate Republican leadership doesn’t like. They’re often willing to move bills out of Committees, even liberal bills, to placate the sponsors before killing it in Rules.

    -In terms of why no Assembly floor vote, it’s likely because they know it won’t pass the Senate. Why antagonize the NYPD for a dead-in-the-water bill? (I know that’s not exactly “Profiles in Courage,” but neither side likes passing obvious 1-House bills unless the symbolism has serious political benefit – like the Senate Republicans occasionally do silly Constitutional tax things just as political theater.)

    -SO. This new session, the bill is back in Senate Judiciary / Assembly Codes. In terms of lobbying, call:
    -Your Members in both Houses (If a Democrat, urge them to co-sponsor if they haven’t already)
    -Relevant Committee Chairs (urge them to advance the bill. They will tell you to call your own Member. Tell them you already have, and that you’re just calling them in their capacity as Chair of the appropriate Committee.)

    You can track the bill’s progress by searching S1379 or A2736 here –
    http://www.nysenate.gov/legislation

  20. Taylor says:

    Yeah, does anyone in NY know of any protests going on re: this developing news?

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