China to stop arresting women for carrying condoms: state press

BEIJING, Nov 30, 2007 (AFP) – 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 labour 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-labour 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.

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 evi