Unterman introduces bill to save young prostitutes

Young girls forced into a life on the streets will not be charged with prostitution under a bill dropped by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford). Instead girls, under the age of 16, would be steered toward programs designed to rehabilitate them and keep them off the streets.

“This bill decreases the age of prostitution,” said Unterman. “Sixteen-years-old is the age of consent in Georgia and anyone who is less than 16 will not be charged with prostitution. We consider then a victim, not a prostitute. They need care and counseling.”

Unterman said her bill would help create a “system of care,” for the girls, “while educating the public and those who come in contact” with the young girls. It would impact girls getting pimped out on the streets, as well as girls working in massage parlors.

“We want to recognize what is wrong and get them into care,” Unterman said. “If you do it before hand, it is less costly.”

Unterman, a registered nurse and social worker and vice chair of the Senate’s Health and Human Services committee, has long been an advocate on issues surrounding girls. It has not always been easy among her colleague in state government.

“I could not talk about sex at the capitol,” said Unterman, adding that she has already heard whispers that she is trying to decriminalize prostitution. “I was trying to talk to 50, 60, 70-year-old men about men trying to have sex with 14-year-olds.”

During the last session, she passed Senate Bill 69, which created better reporting of child sex trafficking. She also proposed a bill that would have charged people $5 to get into a strip club with that money going towards the treatment of young prostitutes and another bill that would raise the age to get a stripping license from 18 to 21. Those last two bills failed, but Unterman plans to revisit them. This latest bill, she said, is a continuation of that work.

“I did not know that (child prostitution) was so pervasive. But go two blocks from the Capital to the Greyhound bus station and you will see how bad it is,” Unterman said. “We are saving children’s lives.”

In Atlanta, trafficking and prostitution has emerged into a major problem. In 2002, for example, the FBI broke up a ring of 14 men pimping girls as young as 10. In a report issued the following year, the bureau cited Atlanta as one of 14 U.S. cities with the highest rate of children being used for prostitution.

Unterman cites a Juvenile Justice Fund study which estimates that 200 to 300 children are pimped in Atlanta each month, based on watching Web sites, calls to escort services and observation of knownprostitution areas.

“Georgia was one of the first states to recognize and admit we had a problem,” Unterman said. “We changed laws and created a system of care. Other states are replicating what we are doing.”

10 comments Add your comment


January 20th, 2010
5:52 pm

This should not be aimed solely towards girls. There are lots of rentboys underage out there too.

TarHeelBred bleeds TarHeelBlue

January 20th, 2010
6:18 pm

I really like Sen. Unterman’s plan to not charge girls under the age of 16 with prostitution especially since chances are that a girl that age or younger has more likely than not been forced into that situation by adult criminals. This bill should, in theory, have the full support of the Georgia General Assembly as a means to help deal with the shameful problem of child prostitution. I also like Sen. Unterman’s idea about collecting a $5 tax/fee at strip clubs to help pay for the rehabilitation and treatment of child prostitutes, because I doubt that an extra five-dollar fee is going to keep men from watching live nude women, but I’m kind of split on the idea of raising the age to obtain a stripping license from 18 to 21. While I think that 18-year olds may not be emotionally mature enough to fully realize what they are doing with their lives by choosing to work in a strip club or sex shop, a decision that ideally not even an fully adult woman or man should have to resort to for income, I think that over-regulating the right of a woman (or man), who is old enough to fight for their country and vote in elections is fundamentally a government overreach. While exotic dancing and striping for a crowd of sometimes less-than-desirable strangers is a far from idea line of work, there have been many young women (and men) over the age of 18 who have taken an undesirable profession and turned it into something positive by making ends meet, working their way through school and paying for their education so that can achieve the same level of success in private and public life that Sen. Unterman has herself achieved. Any attempts to further punish those who clearly need to be punished and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, like adult pimps who prostitute children, should not become an attempt to further criminalize and deprive law-abiding citizens of their liberties. An attempt at compassion by the state for those who have been victimized by ruthless criminals should never be allowed to become an attempt to establish a “Nanny-state” that regulates simple cultural mores and indecency over dangerous and harmful criminal activity at the whims of some self-appointed social tastemakers with itching to exercise a totalitarian streak. Criminalize child prostitution not adult exotic dancing. I hope that Sen. Unterman keeps that in mind as she moves forward with legislation to deal with the issue of child prostitution.


January 20th, 2010
8:41 pm

How about legalizing prostitution(18 and over) and then throwing full enforcement at both unlicensed providers and the customers who contract with unlicensed providers. The license should cost no more than a driving permit and require annual inspection for a small fee. Providers will be required to report all income, including tips (think waiter). While your at it, decriminalize all drug USE and offer very inexpensive maintenance dosing for addicts. Property crime will drop like a rock.


January 21st, 2010
7:23 am

I like katz’s plan, but we are a long way from that. I saw some stats where Atlanta was one of the worst cities, if not the worst city, in America for human trafficking. Sad. For more info about this world wide dilemma, visit http://www.ijm.org

[...] some promise. While it was completely bastardized as an excuse to offer bigger government, I think this bill by Rene Unterman embodies what it should have [...]

Fillin' up @ Juniors

January 21st, 2010
11:13 am

I see a flaw. Can not pimps now recruit children under 16 with the idea that they can make money, and now aren’t going to jail… Did we just hand pimps a giant recruiting tactic…I am totally cool with the rehibiliation element, technically all jails should be a combination of punishment and rehibiliation, but you should still call them punishment. A bill like this is tough to agree or disagree with because its success has little to do with the bill and everything to do with execution.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wellspring Living, AFuture. NotAPast.. AFuture. NotAPast. said: Sen. Renee Unterman introduces bill to save young victims of commercial sexual exploitation: http://bit.ly/8qk8cG [...]


January 21st, 2010
12:44 pm

Why should people patronizing a strip club have to pay to fight prostitution? Especially for underaged girls? Stripping and strip clubs are legal businesses. Why not make prosecutedd johns pay fines? Good lord!

The General

January 22nd, 2010
10:30 am

Katz is right on the money. Those nay-sayers with their head in the sand will, of course, poo-poo the idea. Gotta keep the religious-right happy, even if they are buffoons.


January 26th, 2010
2:45 pm

people need to be educated.
1. To Katz: while I understand where you are coming from, it does NOT make sense to change the laws of the state/country just to make things easier for those breaking the law.

2. I completely agree with the $5 surcharge, even though that did not pass. The simple fact is if you can get a fake ID, you can get a fake just about everything else. Including the paperwork you need to become a stripper. If you choose to go out and spend your money on seeing naked women, then some of that money should go towards helping the young women. If people are making money on your questionable morals anyhow, why shouldn’t money go to do some good?