Child prostitution, sex trafficking back on legislative agenda

Maybe good things really do come to those who wait.

A year ago, a bill designed to help free the hundreds of young girls (and some boys) trapped as sex slaves in Georgia died quietly in the Legislature.

In part, the bill fell to a wrong-headed objection: that changing the law to treat children under 16, who can’t legally consent to sex in Georgia, as victims of child prostitution instead of perpetrators amounted to “de-criminalization.”

But the bill also drew critics who agreed with its goals but feared it might have the unintended consequence of making it harder for police officers to intervene if they saw a likely underage prostitute standing on a street corner.

Now, legislators are back with an even stronger, more far-reaching bill that tackles much more than the problem of child prostitution.

HB 200, introduced this week by Republican Rep. Edward Lindsey of Atlanta with bipartisan support, takes aim at human trafficking — for sexual exploitation as well as other types of forced labor — and significantly toughens the penalties for those found guilty of it.

For people charged with human trafficking, the bill would prohibit such defenses as relation by blood or marriage (for parents exploiting their own children, or men pimping their own wives). It also bars such defenses as “I didn’t know she was 15 years old…she looked 20 to me!” or “Hey, she’s been a prostitute before.”

Penalties for human traffickers would also be significantly beefed up, with the possibility of life in prison if the victim was under 18, and new fines of up to $100,000. What’s more, the state could seize any real or personal property that a trafficker used for, or bought with the proceeds of, the crime.

In a nod to the fact that many trafficking victims in Georgia come from other countries, the bill’s definition of “coercion” includes threats to destroy victims’ passports or turn them into immigration authorities.

As for sexual exploitation, the bill would block charges for anyone forced to commit sex crimes, including prostitution, against his or her will.

Georgia’s new attorney general, Sam Olens, had members of his staff work with Lindsey on the bill’s language as part of a broader effort to help lawmakers draft legislation that is more legally sound (and defensible in court). Olens explained it this way in a recent interview:

Among other things, HB 200 addresses the issue of a person being forced into prostitution, and makes that coercion an “affirmative defense.”

“Where you have someone who’s kidnapped,” Olens said, “they ought to be able to have that defense that they weren’t doing it voluntarily, that they were afraid for their life.”

That’s not “de-criminalization,” but a recognition that many prostitutes — and the vast majority of underage ones — aren’t acting of their own will.

Finally, the bill would also require all law enforcement officers in the state to be trained in “methods for identifying, combating, and reporting incidents” of human trafficking and in the forms of compensation, and the alternatives to jail, available to trafficking victims.

Those other options are still lacking. Although an estimated 353 girls are prostituted in Georgia each month, the state has just more than a dozen spots in rehabilitative centers for these victims. All of them are in metro Atlanta.

Still, Georgia has more such spots than any other state, according to Republican state Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford, who sponsored last year’s bill and told me she would support HB 200.

So, even if the new bill becomes law, our state and nation have a long way to go in fighting this moral outrage, this form of modern-day slavery. Getting tougher on the depraved criminals exploiting our children is a critical next step.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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37 comments Add your comment

Rafe Hollister

February 9th, 2011
7:37 pm

The people invovled in pushing these children into this lifestyle should be put under the jail. The children should be placed in state custody for therapy.

Maybe it would help if prostitution, involving adults, would be decriminalized. If the Johns had a choice of legal, certified, clean professional women, they probably would not be that interested in exploiting some teeny bopper in a grungy hotel room.

native

February 9th, 2011
8:44 pm

I think it is entirely possible that men entering into these situations know exactly what they are getting, which is what they are seeking. I agree that legalizing prostitution might alleviate more problems than it exacerbates, but I don’t see it helping solve the problem of underage prostitution.

Do consumers of child pornography have no legal outlet? Of course they do, but they choose otherwise.

TruthBe

February 9th, 2011
9:39 pm

The adults that cause this crime should be hanged. First they get their day in court.

Monty

February 9th, 2011
10:36 pm

Just wait. The Chamber of Commerce and the Farmer’s Union will come out claiming that without child prostitution they might go out of business. Since they give our legislators millions to dance to their tune, the conservatives in the Gold Dome will slink back into their shells and not do a thing.

Furious Styles

February 9th, 2011
11:06 pm

This is a pipe dream, it will never pass and more children will continue to suffer.

arnold

February 10th, 2011
5:22 am

Of course prostitution should be legal. It could then be controlled. Selling is legal. Sex is good. So why isn’t selling sex legal? It works for me. :-)

Dave

February 10th, 2011
5:55 am

arnold is not only stealing a George Carlin joke, he is an idiot. The article is not about prostitution, it is about children being trafficked and forced into prostitution. George Carlin notwithstanding, there is an argument for legalizing prostitution, but this bill should be passed unanimously.

I Report :-) You Whine :-( mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

February 10th, 2011
5:55 am

Maybe someday we will resume frowning on all manner of sexual deviancy, until then, we reap what we sow, just sayin…

And the children suffer, as usual.

~~~~~

The coffin lid has been throwed open, the sunlight is shining in, the garlic is in place and the bloodsuckers hiss and whine-

Jennette Gayer, a spokeswoman for the non-profit group Environment Georgia, said de-funding the DOE would mean taking badly needed federal funds out of the state. -Urinal

Pound the stake, Repugs.

Darwin

February 10th, 2011
8:18 am

It’s all about jobs jobs jobs….

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 10th, 2011
8:25 am

Just what we need, more criminal laws in Georgia. How about spending some time cutting state spending instead of grandstanding on the latest titillating issue that affects maybe 50 people per year outside of Atlanta. Let Atlanta manage its own sex problems.

Kar

February 10th, 2011
8:54 am

Thankfully we’re including boys on this bill. I know that people primarily think of underage girls but there’s a market for “puppies” too.

mira

February 10th, 2011
9:41 am

I’m the mother of an 18 yr old that was recently picked up for prostitution and I’m really pi**ed that instead of trying to see if family was looking for her (I was!), she was only held over night and her “pimp family” bonded her out! Now she’s missing again and in even more trouble because they are not letting her report to the bonding office.

Why are these young girls not held long enough to search for families?…this alone would stop the problem somewhat. They aren’t gotten right out, moved, and put back on the street on another corner!

DebbieDoRight

February 10th, 2011
10:06 am

The Chamber of Commerce and the Farmer’s Union will come out claiming that without child prostitution they might go out of business. Since they give our legislators millions to dance to their tune, the conservatives in the Gold Dome will slink back into their shells and not do a thing.

That was a low blow and uncalled for. We should be trying to work together to fix the very real, very bad PROBLEM of child prostitution; instead you take the time to make a cheap shot at repubs. I am by no means a repub supporter, however I will support good common sense laws and regulations no matter WHO proposes it.

DebbieDoRight

February 10th, 2011
10:07 am

Just what we need, more criminal laws in Georgia. How about spending some time cutting state spending instead of grandstanding on the latest titillating issue that affects maybe 50 people per year outside of Atlanta. Let Atlanta manage its own sex problems.

Oh really, have you ever been to Athens? You are probably one of the people who “enjoy” the fruits of the “latest titilating issues” labor. Why else would you say something so crass and disgusting?

DebbieDoRight

February 10th, 2011
10:11 am

Why are these young girls not held long enough to search for families?

If your daughter is 18 there’s nothing they could do to hold her.

They are[n’t] gotten right out, moved, and put back on the street on another corner!

It’s really a sad and very real problem. But the girls have to want help & make the first step in order for them to be saved from the streets.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 10th, 2011
10:17 am

Dear Debbie @ 10:07, good morning. “Oh really, have you ever been to Athens? You are probably one of the people who “enjoy” the fruits of the “latest titilating issues” labor. Why else would you say something so crass and disgusting?” I perceive, from your post, that your children are actively engaged in the effort, otherwise why would you be so invested in a non-issue?

[...] A proposed Georgia law beefs up the penalties for engaging is unapproved sex, specifically prostitution. [...]

DebbieDoRight

February 10th, 2011
10:32 am

I perceive, from your post, that your children are actively engaged in the effort, otherwise why would you be so invested in a non-issue?

(A) I don’t have any children.

(B) Why shouldn’t we become involved in an issue when children are being exploited, abused and manipulated? Come on Man!! I care because I’m a HUMAN……!! Even though I don’t have any “dog” in this race, I still care for all the other people who do.

You seriously can’t be THAT heartless!!

seabeau

February 10th, 2011
10:37 am

Death for the Perps.

Aquagirl

February 10th, 2011
11:03 am

Debbie—yes, Dag is that heartless. If it’s not about his wallet, it doesn’t matter.

Or maybe there’s an ulterior motive for discouraging legal attention in this matter. Few people refer to child molestation and slavery as “titillating.”

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Human Trafficking, Just My View. Just My View said: #Georgia legislation to combat child #prostitution #human trafficking #immigration introduced http://tinyurl.com/67q69pp #illegal #business [...]

Whacks Eloquent

February 10th, 2011
11:09 am

Couple of plugs here for an organization named Street Grace that is trying to make a difference in this horrific activity:

http://www.streetgrace.org/
http://www.stopthecandyshop.com/

The movie, if you get a chance to see it, is excellent and quite creepy…and really portrays the evil of this gruesome “industry”.

DebbieDoRight

February 10th, 2011
11:24 am

Or maybe there’s an ulterior motive for discouraging legal attention in this matter.

That’s what I thought too.

Few people refer to child molestation and slavery as “titillating.”

Sad really. Really, really sad for him to say something like that.

wallbanger

February 10th, 2011
11:36 am

A law is only as good as its enforcement. I have been downtown early and have seen prostitutes leaning into cop cars–probably transferring a little kickback for their looking the other way. I figure the cops are in on this stuff as a way to bolster their income, and if the law interferes with their income it won’t be enforced.

Question Authority

February 10th, 2011
12:49 pm

First, legalize adult prostitution, second, end ridiculous child labor laws and minimum wage restrictions.

Either someone owns their own body to do with as they will or the government does. No two ways about it. Currently the government does.

Either you have the right to sell your labor for whatever agreed upon wage you and the potential employer agree too or you don’t have freedom. Currently there is no labor freedom in this country. Currently the government decides who can work and who cannot.

When doing things the right way is illegal, doing something else illegal doesn’t seem like a bad alternative – especially if there is a lot more money to be made.

There are plenty of teenagers who look like adults without even trying. There are plenty of adults who still look like teenagers without even trying. Since nobody is asking for ID (why bother, the whole activity is deemed illgal by the government), what do you expect. Implying that the men know what they are buying is being rather presumptive. What they are attempting to buy is sex.

Once something is illegal, everything else associated with it has more incentive to be illegal as well – police corruption, violence against the women/girls, etc.

Peter

February 10th, 2011
12:54 pm

Didn’t you mention Kyle……that underage prostitution, is widely desired my older rich males, making that demographic Republican ?

Hillbilly Deluxe

February 10th, 2011
1:00 pm

This bill just seems like good common sense, to me. Hopefully it’ll pass and be enforced.

DAVID

February 10th, 2011
1:24 pm

lEGALIZE PROSTITUTION FOR CONSENTING ADULTS AND HAVE TOUGH LAWS for those who force people or employ underage minors into prostitution.

Linda

February 10th, 2011
2:16 pm

If prostitution was really illegal, we would not be $14 + T in debt. The only thing worse than selling one’s body is selling one’s soul.

P.S. and gas would be 99 cents per gallon.

killerj

February 10th, 2011
3:22 pm

You reep what you sew kyle,no jobs,no home,no food,people do desperate things in desperate times and it only gets worse, to bad we have to wait until 2012 to rid ourselves of a major problem.Go Tea Party.

Rafe Hollister

February 10th, 2011
4:35 pm

Linda is write, sad to say, but everything is for sale at the right price. You have heard the joke where the guy asks the girl if she would have sex with him for 5 million dollars and when she says yes, he says, well we have established what you are, now we just need to negiotiate a little on your price.

Rafe Hollister

February 10th, 2011
4:35 pm

Linda is right, not write.

Scary...

February 10th, 2011
8:45 pm

“First, legalize adult prostitution, second, end ridiculous child labor laws and minimum wage restrictions. ”

Yes to the first, a resounding NO to the second. Child labor laws aren’t “ridiculous”, which anyone with a basic grasp of history could tell you. We have these laws for a REASON, to protect those who are not considered legally able to enter into contracts from the depredations of those who would use them.

Of course, there are those who believe that anything that businesses do is fine, so long as it makes money. To hell with protecting the worker and the consumer from greed.

[...] was going to write an explanation about the bill but Shep linked to an article by Kyle Wingfield that does a better job than I could. For people charged with human trafficking, the bill would [...]

Braley Rolling

February 15th, 2011
12:18 pm

I am very concerned with this issue. Very passionate about it. It is great to hear about steps being made toward this problem in GA.
By the way, your cousin, Kyle Wingfield, is a dear friend of mine.

Lisa Harris

February 16th, 2011
1:46 pm

I’m also really passionate about this issue, because human trafficking is something that goes on in so many communities unnoticed. Some resources that have really helped me understand the issue and let other people know about it are the National Human Trafficking Resource Centre Hotline, 1-888-3737-888, and the Polaris Project website, http://www.polarisproject.org. They’re both full of information if anyone wants to learn more.

Nikki G.

February 16th, 2011
4:36 pm

Hi Mira… I have started a Facebook page called Moms And Dads Of Runaway Sons And Daughters MAD OR SAD to help support parents like us, as I am a parent in your situation, too. You can search for it through the Facebook search bar at the top of any Facebook page. I just started it the other day, so it doesn’t have much there, a post about your comment here, some links to other Facebook pages on these types of issues, as of right now. I hope you will “like” it and stay in touch. Anyone else who could pass this info along to another parent of runaway/missing children, and there are thousands of them, that would be great. Thank you.

Ps- @Whacks Eloquent, thank you for the links.