California adopts landmark condom law to protect sex workers

California recently adopted a landmark condom law that aims to protect sex workers without fanfare or much media attention.

The condom legislation, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on 19th of September, requires a court to state explicitly that the presence of condoms is pertinent to the individual case, before prosecutors can present them as evidence of prostitution.

The original version of the bill would have totally banned the use of condoms as evidence of prostitution, but it could not get enough votes to pass.

Advocates have welcomed the new law, calling it a step in the right direction. However, they also argued that the measure as written would not go far enough.

Managing Director Sienna Baskin, of the Sex Worker Project at the Urban Justice Center, said, "It's great that the California Legislature has contemplated this issue and taken it seriously. That said, I do think a more comprehensive bill would be more effective."

Wendy Hill, senior legislative assistant to Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) who authored the bill, pointed out that in the previous system condoms were admitted into court even when they were not actual evidence.

A Human Rights Watch report revealed in 2012 that police officers in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington recurrently seized condoms from sex workers and used them as justification for arrests.

Jerry Brown