Soros Group Backs UN Report Calling For Removal of Laws Criminalizing 'Sex Work'

Pete Winn
By Pete Winn | July 17, 2012 | 5:24 PM EDT

Did you know that police in the U.S. and in many countries of the world confiscate the condoms they find on prostitutes when they arrest them? Did you know that some police use the condoms as evidence to convict prostitutes of the crime of prostitution?

And that by enforcing the law, police are putting the lives of prostitutes at risk?

Well, that’s what George Soros’ Open Society Foundations say.

The Soros-backed group held a panel discussion in New York Tuesday to release a report discussing what it called “new research from six countries” which found that “stop-and-search practices by the police are making sex workers less likely to carry condoms.”

Sex workers? That means prostitutes.

According to the Open Society report, “Criminalizing Condoms,” the police practice of using condoms as evidence of prostitution “impacts sex workers’ lives, including their vulnerability to HIV.”

“In countries around the world -- including the United States -- police are actively engaged in stopping and searching sex workers and confiscating or destroying condoms found in their possession,” the Open Society Foundations Web site states.

“In other cases, police use possession of condoms as grounds to arrest or detain people on charges of sex work. In some jurisdictions courts allow condoms to be used as evidence to convict people on prostitution-related charges,” it added.

The Soros group decried the fact that in countries such as Namibia, 50 percent of sex workers surveyed said police destroyed their condoms and 75 percent of those “who then did sex work” had unprotected sex.

In the U.S., however, 52 percent of prostitutes surveyed said they simply didn’t carry condoms because of stop-and-search practices.

Activists from New York, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, who were involved in the “research” report, say these “law enforcement practices” fly in the face of government programs aimed at preventing the spread of HIV.

“While one arm of government works to get condoms into people's hands, another is taking them away,” said Heather Doyle, director of the sexual health and rights project at the Open Society Foundations.

Don’t worry, however -- the Open Society group says it will join “sex worker rights groups” and other activists in raising the issue at the upcoming 19th International AIDS Conference to be held on July 22-27 in Washington, D.C.

The Soros group is also backing a recent UN report which calls for the removal of all laws criminalizing “sex work.”

According to David Scamell, Open Society’s program officer in the Law and Health Initiative/ Sexual Health and Rights Project, the report issued by The Global Commission on HIV and the Law says that in order to “ensure an effective, sustainable response to HIV that is consistent with human rights obligations,” countries must “repeal all punitive laws on sex work.”

The Global Commission describes itself as “an independent body of leaders and experts convened by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS.)

The Global Commission says “criminalization, in collusion with social stigma makes sex workers’ lives more unstable, less safe and far riskier in terms of HIV.”

See more "Right Views, Right Now" opinion and analysis.