On July 1, a Georgia bill mandating more compassionate treatment of victims of sex trafficking and harsher punishments for perpetrators will officially become law. The law will increase the penalty for sex trafficking to up to 20 years in prison for those trafficking adults and up to 50 years for those trafficking minors. The law will make it so survivors of sex trafficking who are engaged in a legal proceeding will be treated “as victims, not criminals, by offering them recovery under the state crime victims fund and an affirmative defense when coming forward.”
The new law aims to help protect adult as well as child survivors of sex trafficking but focuses on survivors who are minors, dictating “a 25-year minimum prison sentence for coercing sex from anyone under 18.”
The law hopefully represents a growing recognition of the need to end domestic sex trafficking, an issue that has not received a lot of support in the past compared to sex trafficking in other parts of the world.
There’s support for “girls in India or Thailand, girls from fractured families, who have endured abuse, who are very vulnerable, who have been lured or kidnapped into being trafficked for sex,” says [the founder of Rebecca Project for Human Rights Malika Saada] Saar. “But girls from those same situations from American circumstances are not recognized as victims; they are cast down as bad girls making bad decisions.”
Unfortunately, the problem of sex trafficking minors in the United States is a growing one. This is possibly due to an increasing market demand “fueled in part by the larger society’s hypersexualization of young girls. ‘The commercial sex industry has ceased to be an industry of adults,’ says Saar. ‘It’s about buying girls. You talk to any pimp. He wants young girls; young girls make more money for him. Demand that exists is for very young girls.’”
The law received praise from anti- sex trafficking advocates such as Renee Kempton, the Atlanta ambassador for Stop Child Trafficking Now (SCTN). She says she “like[s] a lot about the bill,” especially
the fact that the victims can claim an affirmative defense when they come forward…A lot of girls are scared to come forward and this creates a safe haven for them to do so. This also helps deter the Johns and pimps because they all thrive on fear. They get her to think she has no one but him. The way this law is written, it provides a safe place for girls to share information with authorities because they are usually controlled by fear.
Kempton said “the Governor’s Officer of Children and Families issued a report which estimated that 490 adolescent girls get trafficked in the state of Georgia per month, “ and though the exact number is unknown, the U.S. government estimates “thousands of men, women, and children are trafficked to the United States for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation.” Given the upsetting number of victims of sex trafficking in the U.S., Georgia’s new law may be considered a small step in the right direction. To find out about Pennsylvania legislation to help end sex trafficking in our state and to find out how you can take action, click here. To learn about a proposed bill that would to help eradicate sex-trafficking in Pittsburgh specifically, click here.