SEX WORKER NEWS: Carry condoms, get arrested

This tragedy targets underprivileged communities the most. Spread awareness, rise against the nonsense. And speak to your legislators and city officials.

Why Carrying Condoms in NYC Might Get You Arrested

By Mary O’Hara

May 1, 2014 |

Mitchyll Mora, a LGBT youth community advocate with New York’s Streetwise and Safe project, was walking to a Lower East Side poetry reading in early 2012 when suddenly three police officers ran toward him from across the street.

Mora, who was 22 at the time, and dressed in high-heeled boots and earrings, told VICE News that officers yelled at him to “Get against the wall.”

Mora said an officer grabbed his ass and called him a “faggot” before letting him go. The NYPD did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment on the case.

Mora’s experience was documented in The New York Times, and in testimony he presented to the City Council in support of the Community Safety Act. The Community Safety Act, passed June 2013, increased oversight of the NYPD and expanded New Yorker’s ability to sue cops for racial profiling. It crippled the controversial Stop-and-Frisk policy to the point where then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to veto the act and ultimately filed a lawsuit against his own City Council. That suit was dropped by Mayor Bill DeBlasio when he took office this year.

But Mora told VICE News that there are hundreds of other LGBT youth of color in New York who are also routinely harassed by police. And strangely, the presence of condoms on a person can potentially intensifies the harassment — even leading to arrests and charges of prostitution.

A proposed New York State senate bill could help change that.

Senate Bill S1379 would ban the way police use condoms as evidence of prostitution. In June of 2013, the bill passed in the State Assembly. The bill’s passage in the senate would bring the NYPD one step closer to banning condoms as evidence altogether.

“The reality is that it’s perfectly legal to carry condoms. But the lived reality is that it’s not,” Mora told VICE News. “And it does mean getting stopped by the police and getting questioned: about who you’re having sex with, about your gender identity. The condom becomes an open door for that kind of harassment. And sometimes it’s used to process prostitution charges, but often it’s just an excuse for more questioning.”

Cuba is facing a condom shortage. Read more here.

On May 7, Streetwise and Safe will join Make The Road NY, Sex Workers Project, Housing Works, and other advocacy groups in Albany for an educational session in support of the bill.

VICE News reached out to bill sponsors Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson but did not receive responses.

At a lobbying effort last April in Albany, Senator Hassell-Thompson compared the issue to her days working in the construction field.

“When the guys go on the construction site one of the things I make sure of is that they’re wearing a hard hat and they’re wearing goggles and all protective gear,” said Hassell-Thompson. “I didn’t see condoms as being anything different. My job is to make sure that you reduce your risk as you do what you do.”

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