For the 2015 legislative session, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery and IMUAlliance are drafting and sponsoring a bill to ban sex trafficking in Hawaii. Currently, Hawaii is one of only two states that fail to outlaw sex trafficking in their criminal codes.
“The struggle to establish a sex trafficking law began in 2005 and the implementation of this law is long overdue. A strong sex trafficking definition would allow the state to move forward in effectively combating human trafficking in a victim-centered way,” said Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery Executive Director Kathryn Xian.
“The lack of a sex trafficking ban silences efforts to eliminate sexual slavery on our shores,” said IMUAlliance Executive Director Kris Coffield. “Without a definition of sex trafficking in state law, we cannot adequately identify victims of this horrible crime or create a social services system that addresses their needs.”
The bill would convert the state’s promoting prostitution laws into sex trafficking in the first and second degree. It would also eliminate the statute of limitations for sex trafficking cases and enable solicitation of sex trafficking victims to be prosecuted as a trafficking offense.
“A sex trafficking law would not only allow us to see more accurate statistics and studies on human trafficking in Hawaii, but also would identify victims appropriately as unwilling participants in their own exploitation. These victims are not criminals,” said Xian.
“We must remove the ‘prostitute’ label from people who have no say in their actions,” said Coffield. “When you call someone a prostitute, especially a child, you brand her as a criminal. That can jeopardize her ability to obtain a job, housing, and sustainable lifestyle.”
Additionally, PASS and IMUAlliance have drafted a proposal to separate johns from sex trafficking victims in the state’s prostitution code by creating a new “solicitation of prostitution” statute to cover paying for sex. Hawaii’s prostitution laws presently include johns and victims in the same statute, making it difficult to implement legals reforms aimed at ending demand for sex trafficking.
“Our current laws make it difficult to obtain statistics related to this crime against humanity. For example, under current law, patrons of prostitution, the “johns,” are included in the same statutory category as prostituted persons, which makes it nearly impossible to end the demand by increasing criminal penalties for buyers of women and children for sex,” said Xian.
“Johns provide the demand that drives sex trafficking,” said Coffield. “Buyers are criminals paying for the opportunity to victimize women and girls. Our laws must target the financial facilitators of exploitation, while treating survivors as victims of sexual violence.”
IMUAlliance is a nonpartisan political advocacy organization devoted to advancing human rights, socioeconomic equality, and educational opportunity.
The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS), is a Hawaii-based not-for-profit 501(c)3 whose mission is to stop human trafficking in Hawaii and the Pacific. PASS provides services and advocacy for survivors of human trafficking, education and training on the identification of victims of human trafficking, and public awareness and prevention education for the greater community.