I made a post in 2011 condemning laws in New York City and Washington D.C. that allow police to confiscate condoms as “proof” that a person plans to sell sex. According to Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon, this trend is continuing in New York City, with a negative impact not only on sex workers, but also on outreach workers and businesses that would like to freely distribute condoms (in order to encourage safe sex to prevent STI and HIV transmission), yet are also impacted by this policy. The toll on the LGBT community, with transgender respondents who are not sex workers yet get in trouble with the police for loitering, is also problematic.
Along similar lines, this Canadian writer’s story about being detained at the U.S. border and having condoms used as “proof” of criminal behavior is harrowing. She writes: “For me, carrying my own condoms (in purses, wallets, camera bags; everywhere) is a routine act towards safer sex. For someone else with the power to not only deny passage but judge, moralize and intimidate, it has become enough evidence to put a woman through hell.”
I’m also disturbed by the implicit moralizing agenda in actions like the ones described in the above story: apparently policing other people’s sexual plans is so important that border guards must engage in it. Rather than, say, looking out for dangerous substances or weapons.
People must be free to carry condoms or any other form of birth control/STI prevention. If our laws and the behavior of our public safety officers do not reflect that, then they are obstructing another (very important) kind of public safety – because sexual health is a public health issue. No amount of moralizing will change that.