D.C. Prostitution Free Zones: 3 Condoms Could Get You Arrested
In Washington D.C. carrying around three condoms in you purse, wallet, or otherwise could land you in the slammer. In accordance with a new policy on Prostitution Free Zones, officers can arrest anyone suspected of prostitution and all it takes apparently is intending to practice safe sex. The police department has been accused of citing carrying any more than two condoms as a sign of sex work. Pretty presumptuous, no?
As defined by Section 104 of the Omnibus Public Safety Emergency Amendment Act of 2006 the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department has the power to declare areas as Prostitution Free Zones "in areas where the health or safety of residents is endangered by with prostitution or prostitution-related offenses."
If deemed a risk area, "provided it meets certain criteria, including a disproportionately high number of arrests or calls for police service related prostitution or prostitution-related offenses in the proposed zone within the preceding six-month period", the Police Chief can declare the area a Prostitution Free Zone where it will be clearly marked and remain as such for upwards of 240 hours.
In the process of lowering the standards for arrest, the health of sex workers is placed in grave danger by procedures used by the D.C. police to determine who is a sex worker. Police confiscation of safer sex tools like condoms for use as evidence of intent to engage in prostitution is not uncommon. Anecdotal evidence suggests that having three or more condoms is considered a proxy for being a sex worker.
Change.org, a women's rights website, claims the practice of designating areas as 'Prostitution Free' merely "prioritizes making commercial areas look clean and pretty lady-free" while disregarding the public's health. The organization asserts that the bigger problem is pimps.
What do you think? Does the Prostitution Free Zone policy take things to far or is it a step in the right direction?
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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada