One glance at the slot machine-filled restaurants or the pedestrians wandering around with open cups of beer will tell you that many things are legal in New Orleans that aren’t legal elsewhere throughout the United States. The city’s police, however, are currently cracking down harshly on the illicit prostitution that occurs there.
According to Raw Story, the New Orleans Police Department has been enforcing a “loitering for prostitution statute,” in which officers are arresting individuals on the streets that they suspect to be prostitutes." One of the officers’ methods, however, is to arrest individuals that they discover to be carrying multiple condoms.
The Human Rights Watch has been pushing for the New Orleans Police Department to cease this practice, claiming that it encourages unsafe sex by making sex workers afraid to carry condoms due to risk of arrest.
While the city’s issues with prostitution certainly are in need of a solution, arresting people for carrying condoms is a complete step in the wrong direction. According to the HRW, Louisiana’s AIDS-related death rate is more than double the national average. In addition to its anti-prostitution laws, the state also “prohibits sale and distribution of syringes not intended for medical use, categorizes syringes as illegal drug paraphernalia, and criminalizes even trace amounts of illegal drugs that may be found in a syringe.”
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This approach to the state’s drug laws, as well as its new police policies regarding carrying condoms and prostitution may be intended to stop illicit activities, but both are damaging the health of individuals in the process.
The “loitering for prostitution” laws in Louisiana are also extremely vague, although Raw Story reports that a local police officer explained that officers would typically arrest individuals carrying “more than five” condoms, as well as those that are suspicious for a variety of other reasons, including “where they are, what they are wearing, and what they may have done in the past."
The Human Rights Watch's exposure of this issue demonstrates that the New Orleans Police Department needs to rethink its policies in order to ensure the health of all of the city's residents.