Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Safe Harbor Legislation

I spent this past summer as a U.S. Advocacy Intern with Love146, an organization fighting to end child sex slavery and exploitation. The organization, headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut, was abuzz with excitement due to Connecticut’s passage of the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, Public Act 10-115, effective October 1, 2010. Far too often children are arrested for engaging in prostitution and sent to a juvenile detention facility. However, this treatment stands in stark contrast to the 2000 Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) definition of a person under the age of 18 who has been “recruited, transported, harbored, provided, or obtained for purposes of a commercial sex act” as a victim of human trafficking.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) recently hosted a hearing titled, “In Our Own Backyard: Child Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the United States”, and in the opening remark stated, “We have created a legal dichotomy in America in which the federal government views prostituted children as victims, yet most states treat them as criminals.” Safe Harbor legislation seeks to eliminate the discrepancy inherent in many states handling of prostituted children and ushers in a paradigm shift viewing children as victims instead of criminals.

In Connecticut the legal age for consensual sex is 16 years of age, however, per the TVPA any person under the age of 18 found engaging in a commercial sex act is a victim of human trafficking. The Connecticut Safe Harbor Act prevents a child under 16 years of age from being charged with prostitution and views a person age 16 or 17 years of age as a victim of human trafficking.

The implementation of Safe Harbor legislation follows a biopsychosocial framework by focusing on addressing a survivors biological, psychological, and social needs post-exploitation through partnerships with social service providers. It is important to note that Safe Harbor legislation does not decriminalize prostitution but rather protects the estimated 100,000 American children forced to engage in prostitution every year.

The possibility of re-victimizing a child by focusing on criminalization instead of victimization merits a change in U.S. policy towards prostituted children. The current Safe Harbor political landscape only includes Connecticut, New York, Washington, and Illinois.The lack of awareness in the United States is contributing to the continuation of this lucrative crime. Ask your State Representatives where they stand on Safe Harbor legislation.

1 comment:

  1. Human trafficking has become a global issue watch this documentary to understand more about modern day slavery