A Preliminary Hat in the Ring of Laws To Help End Sex Trafficking

“May we not think of freedom as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” -Peter Marshall

Last week, Catalyst’s blogger, Maggie, posted about a new law in Hawaii that would remove a requirement for a person to prove he/she is a sex trafficking victim in order to have a prostitution conviction expunged. Hawaii is the first state to enforce this law, and we are hoping this is the first of many steps for other states like Illinois to follow.

Read the previous blog post about Hawaii’s new law here: Hawaii Prostitution Law A First in The Fight For Trafficking Victims.

In her blog, Maggie writes, “The law is a milestone for victims of sex trafficking, who may fear retaliation from a pimp or buyer if they are to come forward to law enforcement. Language barriers and economic dependence may also prevent victims from identifying themselves.”

According to Anita S. Teekah, executive director of the anti-trafficking program Safe Horizon, this bill allows individuals — whether they have been sex trafficked or not — access to basic resources such as housing, sustainable economic and vocational opportunities to develop self-empowerment, and reduces the risk of re-trafficking. It is also a first and very important step "to ensuring justice and a path forward for the most vulnerable and criminalized in our society," said Teekah.

Sex trafficking is a $150 billion industry with $99 billion of those monies said to be profit from sexual exploitation. The sex trafficking industry relies primarily — if not solely — on the internet and word-of-mouth to advertise adults and minors for the sale of sex. Even though sex trafficking is illegal in all 50 states — Nevada is the only state to legalize some prostitution, or sex work. Currently, the laws are not fool-proof and there are many ways for pimps, traffickers and website owners to get around the laws.

With the current system, victims are usually the ones prosecuted and made to blame for their vulnerabilities instead of those exploiting them, further ensuring that they will most likely be re-trafficked. Currently, there are nine states who have harsher penalties for the buyer of sex acts (CO, KS, MA, MT, NE, NY, NC, TN, UT), while two states (DE and MN) carry harsher penalties for the prostitute. This was a result of Rhode Island successfully closing a legal loophole that allowed indoor prostitution to exist since 1980.

Read more here.

People who are unjustly prosecuted and made to blame for the acts of others will have a difficult — if not impossible — time escaping the cyclical cycle of sex trafficking and organized crime. With a criminal record, these individuals may have a hard time finding adequate housing, gainful employment and the dignity of a clean record.

Many people are of the belief that prostitutes choose this lifestyle, while the truth is — most don’t. That is a lie our society has created to protect the highest hitters in the sex trafficking world. Convincing people that the blame falls on the victim prevent offenders from needing to take responsibility for their actions and ultimately being prosecuted.

Last year, a new bill was introduced by President Trump to hold websites responsible for content posted by others. According to Wired.com, the Senate voted 97-to-2 for the bill’s passage to change a foundational law that has shielded website operators and owners from liability over content.

Though the bill garnished much opposition from Google, sex workers, and proponents of free speech, those who support the bill say it will allow victims to legally pursue websites who help facilitate sex trafficking, according to Wired. Until last year, efforts to hold websites accountable for content posted by others was thwarted by a liability shield in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

For a list of all current bills that protect victims of sex trafficking, read here: Current Federal Laws

While there are a lot of positives about the bill, it isn’t without its shortfalls.

Certain politicians are of the belief that the bill could hurt more than help and change the way we interact and understand the internet. Others argue that the bill needs to be passed because it holds websites accountable for encouraging and even enabling sex trafficking — specifically the trafficking of minors.

Do you want to help Catalyst Ministries in our efforts to help victims who have been lured, tricked into the sex trade with the promise of gainful employment, then stripped of their identities and forced into sex labor? In my next post, I will discuss how the current laws need to change in order to further help victims of sex crimes and stop trafficking rings.

Also, be on the look out for the very next blog, featuring our newest blogger, Deanna’s, story and how she came to learn about— and have a passion—to help end sex trafficking.

- Erin
Proverbs 31: 8-9