Spokesmen for the State Assembly announced on Tuesday that they approved legislation that repeals the ban on “walking while trans”, which punished walking the streets of New York for the apparent purpose of prostitution and that it gave the police the authority to approach transgender people under the pretext of preventing sex work.
LGBTQ community leaders and several local elected officials celebrated this new regulation that completely scratches the Section 240.37 of the Criminal Law Code, in force since 1974, which prohibits “loitering for prostitution purposes.”
“Discrimination has no place in New York State, on our law books. We protect already marginalized communities from being unfairly attacked. The Democratic majority in the Assembly will continue to work to reform our criminal justice system “said the Speaker of the State Legislature, Carl Heastie.
A step against discrimination
According to the repealed regulations, people could be arrested and enter a circle of criminalization by the length of the skirt or by showing the strap of the bra, which caused that disproportionately many members of the community African American and Latino ‘trans’ were arrested.
Activists for the rights of LGBTQ communities say that between 2012 and 2015, the 85 percent of people Arrested under this law were black or Hispanic.
Specifically, people who were deemed to be violating this already eliminated law were profiled by law enforcement authorities because they wandered in a public place, signaled, or continually tried to engage in conversation with passersby. And they dressed in a particular way.
Spokesmen for the State Assembly assured that in a testimony of a police officer, he narrated that he was trained to search women who had the “Adam’s apple, big hands and feet”, To identify people in prostitution.
“To a large extent, the harassment caused by the current law has been suffered by victims of the human trafficking, and abused and exploited women, and it does not reflect the reality that these victims deserve our help and support to escape their harmful environments, rather than subjecting them to further harm and degradation, ”said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, one of the main promoters of this new law.
“A more equitable NY”
For its part, Geoffrey L. Wertime, co-chair of the Committee on the Rights of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Queers of the York City Bar explained that the repealed rule faced strong opposition since its inception as “vague and too broad.”
“Its enforcement by the police it lacked a clear guide. This repeal will promote a more equitable New York by reducing the incidence of unjustified police actions against marginalized communities, in particular, Latina and African-American, cisgender and transgender women, and immigrant women, ”he highlighted.
Relief: expunge criminal record
According to the balance of the activists, thousands of New Yorkers suffer irreparable damage due to the criminal record derived from this law, which historically limits them in their ability to access housing, education and employment.
This was the experience of Norma Ureiro a ‘trans’ woman of Hispanic origin , an activist from The Make The Road New York (MRNY) who explains that in the midst of what he describes as a process of “systematic discrimination” many of his “sisters” have not only been prevented from getting a decent job, or having access to to house plans. But they have also been “Condemned” not to be able to regularize their immigration status.
“Many have been deported simply for walking the streets in a sexy way,” he reacted.
Norma says that a couple of years ago she was arrested at 4 in the morning by members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) while walking holding hands with her boyfriend for Jackson Heights en Queens.
“I have been trying to obtain my residency for almost two years and as a result of that unjust detention that became a criminal record, it has been very complicated,” the activist questions.
Legislation as passed and will require regulation and signature by Governor Andrew Cuomo allows erase this type of criminal record to those who have been detained in the past in circumstances such as Norma’s.
“The State of New York is eliminating this law that has stigmatized and dehumanized transgender people and also minorities of color, victims of sex trafficking and sex workers for over 40 years “, analyzed Tina Luongo, Attorney in Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society.
The lawyer reasons that the legislators have done their part and now Governor Cuomo must fulfill the promises he made on this issue and enact this legislation into law immediately.
“Both the provisions of repeal and record-setting are essential to remedy past damage and necessary to ensure that race and gender presentation are not further criminalized, ”Luongo highlighted.
A bigger problem in Queens
One of the assembly members who fought for the approval of this repeal was Catalina Cruz, who represents the District 39 of Jackson Heights and Corona, one of the cities of the Big Apple where only in 2018 it increased by 120% arrests of Hispanic transgender women.
“For me it is an honor to have voted in favor of this legislation. We are taking a very powerful step in our Latino majority neighborhoods to bury an era of discrimination and police harassment. Many are not here to tell about it others have been on the verge of suicide “Cruz assured.
Likewise, transgender women of Latino origin Geraldine Monrroy, assures that 22 months ago she arrived in the Big Apple and given the stories shared by her colleagues, she preferred to lock herself up to avoid being the target of attacks.
“It is especially a great risk to walk down Rooselvelt Avenue as a trans woman. Today with this law we are opening a gap for the new generations. We honor those who diedGeraldine reacted.
The co – director of Instituto SOAR, Melissa Brouda He argued that the repeal of the ‘walking while trans’ ban is fundamental, in his words, for two reasons: The first is that the law criminalized intention, rather than conduct. Second, the law was applied in a way iIncredibly discriminatory.
“People are arrested not for what they are doing, but by who and where are they. We know that Black and Latina women, especially transgender women and people in economically disadvantaged districts, are overwhelmingly targeted. “
Brouda as an attorney in New York, I have represented dozens of Latina transgender women in Queens who feared leave your apartments due to being falsely arrested for loitering.
“This law did not protect us; rather, discriminated against the most marginalized”, He concluded.
In contrast, opponents of this legislation argue that it is a veiled way of “authorizing prostitution” in the streets.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.