New York’s anti-loitering legislation, which targets trans sex workers, is under fire.
You may not have heard of the “Walking While Trans” law, but it’s a discriminatory statute that has aggressively been used to arrest and detain trans folks.
The existing law allows police officers to act based on what they may deem suspicious or law breaking. These subjective regulations put trans women, specifically trans women of colour, at risk.
The law, officially named the Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution law, was established in 1976.
It is believed that many of the arrests occurring across New York, targeting trans men and women, fall under the category of “loitering for the purpose of prostitution.”
In 2018, The Bronx Times revealed that arrests for loitering for prostitution spiked 120 percent in one year.
While attempts have been made to introduce laws that protect trans men and women on the street, they have not always been successful.
Last Friday (22 January), Democrat Senator Brad Hoylman introduced the repeal proposal in an effort to increase protections for the trans community.
Holyman said: “We need to get rid of the overly broad and archaic statute that allows transgender women of color, immigrants, and LGBT youth to be profiled just because of the way they look.”
Activists and politicians have long disputed the current law. In 2016, the Legal Aid Society called out the legislative biases, saying: “A woman can be improperly arrested and detained simply because an officer takes issue with her clothing or appearance”.
According to 2018 New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services reports, there were an 120 per cent increase in arrests under the statute.
The data showed that 47 per cent of arrests across New York state happened in Queens, and Black and Latinx women, including transgender people, were the most impacted.
Almost more than 60 per cent of transgender New Yorkers who were recently surveyed admitted they were subjected to police harassment and misconduct during their arrests or detainment.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas spoke in favour of repealing the law: “The repeal of the ‘Walking While Trans’ law is an important step, and I commend the leaders who have championed this issue so tirelessly.”
New York’s Transgender Advocacy Group also pushed in favour of the reversal of the legislation.
“We are seeing history being made in regards to trans rights being prioritized, and the passage of this bill will improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers, and especially of Black and Brown trans women who have historically been targeted and unduly profiled simply for our existence,” the group said.