California law enforcement often used condoms as evidence when seeking to charge sex workers with criminal activity. Recently, the governor signed legislation making it illegal for authorities to use condoms as a basis for pursuing criminal charges. This has come as a relief for many sex workers from the LGBT and other communities who feared unfair treatment within the criminal justice system.
Individuals engaged in sex work end up in this trade for a variety of reasons. While there are instances where participation in the sex trade is voluntary, this is not always the case. Many people get forced into sex work against their will. In any event, sex workers often become victims of abduction, robbery, assault or rape. If they reported these crimes while involved their trade authorities would charge them with engaging in prostitution-related activity, according to Think Progress. This is especially the case if authorities caught them in possession of condoms. In response, many sex workers stopped using condoms altogether. Without using condoms, they also increased their exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancies.
Passing Senate Bill 233 alleviates the fear sex workers had about reporting crimes committed against them or getting caught with condoms. Many sex workers, their advocates and civil liberty organizations view the ban on using condoms as evidence of prostitution as a positive step in the right direction. The groups most affected by this legislation include LGBT youth, transgendered women and women of color.
Sometimes the conduct of law enforcement can make crime victims feel unsafe about seeking justice. If individuals, especially those who are LGBT, believe their rights are being violated in any way it might be beneficial to consult with an attorney.