A Declaration of Stopping the Use of Condoms as evidence in court

by Zi Teng and Midnight Blue on the World AIDS Day

1 December is annually observed as World AIDS Day internationally since 1988 in order to educate the public about AIDS and reduce discrimination against people living with AIDS. Because of the sexual nature of sex work, and sex contact is one of the sources of AIDS infection, the public often misconceive that AIDS only exists among sex workers and clients. In fact, ‘unsafe sex’ is the main reason for spreading AIDS. Anyone risks the chance of being infected with AIDS if one does not have safe sex. The above misconception makes the general public believe that only sex workers and clients spread AIDS. Such belief not only hinders people from preventing AIDS, but also lowers the alertness of the public about AIDS and facilitates its spread. Therefore, we hope to spread this message to the society: Everyone is responsible for preventing AIDS! We hope the society can look at AIDS positively, reduce discrimination and show more support.

Find ways to eliminate discrimination

In AIDS prevention, the six vulnerable groups include sex workers. We have to ask: why are sex workers vulnerable? Reasons are discrimination and stigmatization. In fact, most of the sex workers know about AIDS and can use condoms correctly. However, discrimination, especially the abuse of power and violation of human rights of the police during their work, renders them vulnerable to AIDS. What we need to do is to pinpoint the problem.

Although civil groups have been promoting safe sex, Hong Kong Police encourages sex workers to work without condoms. We are furious at it. Because of the discrimination and prejudice against AIDS and sex work, especially among the police, condoms are still used as an evidence to arrest sex workers. As condoms bring so much trouble, some sex workers do not like condoms given by sex worker groups. They are afraid that the condoms they receive will become the evidence which put them in jail.

The Police are the prime culprit of the spread of AIDS, the Court the Accomplice

The way police work in the frontline facilitates the spread of AIDS. In cases dealing with keeping a vice establishment, jargons of the police include 3 objects, ‘condoms, lubricants, and balance book’. In dealing with male sex worker cases in the past 6 months, the three objects are ‘condoms, lubricants, and mouth rinse’. When they arrest sex workers, they search for condoms and lubricants everywhere and take lots of pictures. When sex workers are examined, the police threaten them ‘not to give me excuse as you have so many condoms’. Every procedure encourages sex workers to work without condoms. This is not the behaviour of a few policemen, but how the system works.

The court allows the prosecutor to use condoms as evidence makes it an accomplice. Nowadays, condoms and lubricants will become evidence in court for sure. The judge keeps on asking if the police could search any condoms and lubricants in the scene, and questions the accused if he agrees that condoms and lubricants were found. Such act incriminates sex workers by condoms. The public needs to think about it. Condoms are for preparing sex. It is for the prevention of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STDS). It is not illegal for adults to have sex voluntarily. There are other ways to prove whether the sex act is sex trade or not. It is not necessary to use condoms as incriminating evidence.

The Failure of ‘Use a condom for safer sex’

After few years of effort, ‘use a condom for safer sex’ becomes popular to everyone. Different policies of Hong Kong are reformed according to the needs of different social groups. The Annual Report of Council for the AIDS Trust Fund shows that more than 8 million HKD was spent in 2007/2008 on promoting AIDS prevention and education. More than 22 million was spent in 2006/2007. More than 17 million was spent in 2005/2006. ACA NEWSLIFE Issue 181 published by The Advisory Council on AIDS expressed concern on the above situation. It described the relationship between the fear of police prosecution and reluctance to keep condoms by sex workers.

The Effort Paid is Destroyed Right Away

The above resources and contribution spent on AIDS prevention should be endorsed. Unfortunately, Hong Kong Police and the legal system have been devastating AIDS prevention. In the middle of the year, sex worker groups were aided by the Advisory Council on AIDS to express concern on using condoms as evidence to arrest sex workers. The reply is: the police will not change the existing policy! To get a better report, the police ruthlessly ignore the risks of AIDS infection of sex workers. This deserves our harshest condemnation!

Reform the legal system and remove hindrance

Based on Point 11, ‘Review and reform legal frameworks to remove barriers to effective, evidence based HIV prevention, combat stigma and discrimination and protect the rights of people living with HIV or vulnerable or at risk to HIV ‘ of the ‘Essential Policies Actions for AIDS Prevention’ in Appendix I “Key Strategies Documents –UNAIDS, World Health Organization (WHO) and Mainland China” in the “Recommended HIV/AIDS Strategies for Hong Kong 2007 to 2011” written by Advisory Council on AIDS, we have the following requests.

  1. The police stop using condoms and lubricants as evidence in court immediately. The court should stop accepting this when it deals with sex work cases.
  2. The Advisory Council of AIDS continues to implement reforms to eliminate barriers, stigma and discrimination, protect the rights of sex workers and contribute to AIDS prevention among sex workers.
  3. Legal reforms on decriminalization of sex work should be launched to improve occupational health and allow every sex worker to work without a threatening environment.

1 Dec 2009 (Worlds AIDS Day)
Contact Person: Li Chun Wai (24934555)
Founders: Midnight Blue Zi Teng