M’am! I order you: Put down the condoms.

I will own up to the fact that I initially chuckled a little bit at the absurdity of this headline: China to stop arresting women for carrying condoms (h/t KaeLyn). But in truth, it’s no laughing matter.

Chinese police are to stop arresting women who carry condoms, traditionally seen as evidence of prostitution, in an effort to help curb the spread of AIDS, state press said Friday.

Despite efforts to stop the practice, women in China are still being sent to labor camps for prostitution offences merely because they were carrying condoms when detained by police, the report said, quoting an expert.

“We have investigated many education-through-labor camps and we have found that for those sentenced for prostitution, the sole evidence was that they possessed condoms,” Xinhua quoted the unnamed expert as telling an AIDS conference here.

That’s right — arresting women and sending them to labor camps simply because they were carrying condoms. No actual evidence of prostitution needed (of course, I wouldn’t support the government arresting actual sex workers and sending them to labor camps, either). And the men, I presume, are good to go. But that isn’t even the really interesting part:

The comment appeared to contradict remarks by Han Mengjie, a senior official at the cabinet-level AIDS prevention office, who was quoted by Xinhua as saying a campaign to end the practice was put in place as early as in 2001.

“In 2001, the propaganda bureau and the police issued a joint directive that as for the use of condoms, they would not be considered evidence,” said Han.

“As far as I know, since we started our AIDS awareness campaign and consulted with the police ministry, police throughout China have stopped using condoms as evidence.”

. . . Police in China enjoy extraordinary powers to deal with minor crime, and are allowed to convict and sentence suspects to up to two years in labor camps, without trial.

Firstly, I gather (and someone correct me if I’m wrong) that if government agencies are contradicting each other over what types of “evidence” they’re using, there couldn’t have possibly ever been an actual law against women carrying condoms. That law in itself would be a travesty, of course, but it’s even more horrid to arrest women without even informing them that what they’re doing is a “crime,” beforehand.

Secondly, it apparently wouldn’t even need to be a law, since police can detain people in labor camps for up to two years without a trial.

I don’t know what the hell to make of this. Misogyny? Extreme abuse of authoritarian power? My best guess is a combination of the two. It would be interesting to know how they choose to stop women — my money is on appearance-profiling alone. As China becomes increasingly urbanized, and as urban-dwellers become more financially successful, one has to imagine that women exercising sexual freedom would start to follow — and of course, the Chinese government strongly discourages reproduction, anyway. You think they’d love this sort of thing (but yeah, I know — women shouldn’t have sex and not have babies, they should just not have sex at all). In any case, I’m sure that quite a few of these urban successful women carry condoms — and yet I can’t quite see them being “mistaken” for prostitutes, stopped by police and whisked off to a labor camp.

So, my fellow Americans, this is indeed the country whose ass we’re kissing as though our lives (instead of just our economic future) depends on it. The more powerful they become, I imagine the more that disturbing shit like this will come to light.

But on second thought . . . detaining people at the whim of the government for extended periods, under completely fabricated charges and without a trial? Hmm, maybe our governments’ values aren’t so different, after all.

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