China is Now Jailing Women Just For Carrying Condoms

Chinese sex workers have stopped using condoms out of fear from getting caught, an investigation has found. Prostitution remains illegal in the country, but police are now looking for women who may be sex workers by searching for condoms as evidence.

The policy weakens the nation’s efforts against HIV where sex workers are among the most vulnerable groups.

The study, published by Asia Catalyst, documented 518 questionnaire responses and 74 in-depth interviews from male, female and transgender prostitutes. Data gathering was conducted between late 2014 and August 2015.

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As it turned out, those who had been interrogated by police were less likely to use condoms (48%). Those who had not been interrogated reported consistent condom usage (68%), Shanghaiist noted.

Meanwhile, 76% of those who had not been interrogated always carried condoms, versus 48% of those who had been questioned.

Karyn Kaplan, executive director of Asia Catalyst, expressed:

“Law enforcement actions are having a profound effect on sex workers’ health and safety, including on condom use and behaviors. Sex workers are more likely to agree to client demands to not use condoms, reduce the number of condoms they carry or try various methods to hide condoms.”

The report cited the case of a transgender sex worker identified as Shasha, who was detained by authorities just because she had condoms inside her bag.

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“I hadn’t done any business that day when the police picked me up…they began asking me, ‘Are you engaging in prostitution?’ I kept denying it.”

She went on, “Finally the police ran out of patience and began to hit me and berate me to make me admit it. The police rummaged through my bag and found a lot of condoms and some lubricant, and they ruled that I was providing prostitution services and sent me to a detention center for 15 days.”

Chinese AIDS activist Wan Yanhai weighed in the situation, “Carrying condoms is not a crime.”

As per the New York Times, the World Health Organization recorded over 575,000 cases of HIV in China last year, with sex being the primary mode of transmission.

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