MPD says it can use possession of multiple condoms as supplemental proof for a prostitution charge.
One of the world's largest human rights group is blasting the District police department for using condoms as evidence of prostitution against women and transgendered women.
For the past year, Human Rights Watch monitored the detention and arrests of women and transgender women suspected of being sex workers in four cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the District of Columbia. In all four cities, having more than three or four condoms in a purse was used as evidence in charges of prostitution, the report found. Human Rights Watch representatives released the report, "Sex Workers at Risk: Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution in Four US Cities," this morning.
Human Rights Watch researcher Megan McLemore says they interviewed lawyers, judges, social workers, police and 40 D.C. sex workers. "We consistently heard that there was a three condom rule in Washington D.C., because the police would arrest you if you were carrying more than that," says McLemore.
Cindee Clay heads an organization that works with prostitutes, and she says the policy is forcing prostitutes to forgo condoms. "It doesn't make sense," she says. "This is a deadly choice that the police are making to include condoms as evidence."
Rick Rosendall, an LGBT activist, is similarly incredulous, saying "The District of Columbia has the highest incidence of any metropolitan area of HIV infection, and we can't get our law enforcement on the same page as our health department? It's staggering."
McLemore argues there is a way to get on the same page: "The police have agreed not to harass drug users around needle exchange sites, because they recognize that HIV prevention and hepatitis prevention is important for public health. We are asking the same be done with condoms."
Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. health officials deny that there is a three condom police policy, and are promising a full investigation before they issue an official response to the Human Rights Watch report.
Today's report coincides with next week's International AIDS Conference in Washington.