by Craig and Marc Kielburger, Co-founders, Free The Children
LINK>>> to original at HuffingtonPost.com
Marcus X Arrington's victim was only 16-years-old when he allegedly forced her into prostitution.
While she can't be named because she is a minor, her story fits the profile of many others. She ran away from home hoping to escape its problems. Arrington allegedly promised to help but instead brandished a handgun and forced her to work for him.
The girl's services were advertised on Craigslist. The affidavit she later filed with police says that posting was answered six to eight times a day during a two-week period earning Arrington between $6,000 and $8,000. To keep her in compliance, she says she was beaten and sexually assaulted by her captor.
In most U.S. states, these charges would constitute human trafficking. Through this fast-growing business, people are recruited and haboured for the purpose of exploitation. Victims are forced or coerced into activities like sex work. And, while many associate trafficking with smuggling people across transnational borders, the practice often involves citizens lured within their own borders.
But, Hawaii is one of eight states without a human trafficking law. If this were New York, Arrington would face up to 25 years in jail for this felony offense. Instead, he is charged with promoting prostitution, a crime that can be classed as a misdemeanor and carries a very broad sentence ranging from one day and ten years.
While federal human trafficking laws exist, these cases can take two years to build and authorities largely focus on large-scale rings. Experts say traffickers in Hawaii end up receiving a slap on the wrist if anything.
"It's too huge for federal law to regulate. Logistically, it's impossible," says Kathryn Xian of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. "They are not the ones who are every day in the streets. That's state police patrol."
Children are particularly vulnerable to the trafficking business which generates billions of dollars in profit each year and is the second largest criminal industry in the world. While numbers are hard to find, it's estimated between 100,000 and 300,000 children in America are victims.
According to the Polaris Project, the average age of entry into prostitution in the U.S. is between 12 and 13. Many are runaways who are attracted to a pimp's promise of money and affection before it quickly turns to forced prostitution.
That's something Xian says is rampant in Hawaii due to the state's less stringent laws and abundance of wealthy travelers.
"The traffickers are mobile and crafty. And, the price is lower on the mainland. You can charge $500 per hour in Hawaii because of the clientele," she explains. "Now we have significant numbers of 24-hour massage parlours popping up in droves without any ability to be regulated."
Police in Hawaii must rely on promoting prostitution to prosecute offenders. Charges often come through undercover operations where police pose as Johns and answer ads on Craigslist. Traffickers are charged based on their arranging the meeting. But, because the girl is actually the one who makes the transaction, she too is arrested.
This means the enslaved girl is actually being charged with the same crime as her trafficker.
Xian says New York State's law is more comprehensive. By specifically naming sex trafficking as an offense, they created a separate law for abusers with sentences of up to 25 years in jail. Previously, offenders faced two and a half to seven years. It also required victims receive rehabilitation services.
Trafficking is still difficult to prove. It's often hidden from public view and the violence under which victims live too often prevents them from coming forward. But, Xian says a human trafficking bill would give Hawaiian police a chance at distinguishing between trafficker and victim - and getting victims the help they need.
"Everyone is against human trafficking and slavery," says Xian. "To affectively address it, we need to pass our own laws."
January 4, 2010 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JOIN THE PACIFIC ALLIANCE TO STOP SLAVERY (PASS) AT THE MLK MARCH & ADVOCATE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE STATE ANTI HUMAN TRAFFICKING BILL
Hawaii remains 1 of 8 states left in the U.S. that has not passed legislation making Human Trafficking a state felony offense while protecting the victims of this horrible crime. As a result, local law enforcement must use current Prostitution Statutes which criminalize victims of Human Trafficking as “prostitutes” and makes it nearly impossible to identify Human Trafficking victims. Read more: "Lack of Law Puts Minors at Risk in Hawaii" http://bit.ly/7i0oq5 - Huffington Post
The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS), a local non-profit group, will be marching with its supporters at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade on January 18th 2010 at 8am. At the end of the parade, at Kapiolani Park, PASS’s spokesperson will inform the public about the legislature’s current state Human Trafficking bill which will be introduced with the Women’s Legislative Packet.
Currently, both the state attorney general and the city prosecutor stand opposed to state Human Trafficking legislation and PASS hopes to encourage them to change their views.
PASS has a growing petition of over 1000 signers, mostly local registered voters who urge the legislature to pass a state Human Trafficking Law. In addition, at least 11 neighborhood boards have passed resolutions in support of a state law as well as the Honolulu City Council (Resolution 09-284).
Bullet points of the bill:
1. Creates the crime of Human Trafficking in the 1st Degree as a Class A offense, the highest penalty available in Hawaii, and sets varying degrees of offenses for trafficking related crimes. Human Trafficking for sexual exploitation in the 1st degree is based upon transportation (into, through within, or across state lines) plus intent to advance prostitution by any ONE of the NINE stated means in the definition of the offense (e.g. force, enticement, fraud, extortion, debt bondage, use of illicit substances, etc..). (Easy to prove transportation as we are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean surrounded by 2000 miles of seawater on every side. The "intent to advance" language would exempt non-criminal forms of transportation from prosecution and would focus prosecution only on Human Traffickers and those that abet Human Traffickers).
2. Establishes a mandatory minimum sentence for the traffickers and patrons of trafficked children.
3. Focuses the criminalization on the traffickers and the patrons of Human Trafficking NOT on the victims. (Current prostitution statutes criminalize the victims by placing them in the same criminal category as patrons and advancers of prostitution).
4. Would allow victims to be legally recognized as victims of human trafficking and not as "prostitutes" or other criminals
5. Excuses the crime of Human Trafficking from Hawaii's "Deferred Acceptance" law which would allow defendants, if pleading guilty, to receive a lighter sentence and to be able to legally say after the fact that they have not been convicted of any crime.
6. Establishes the offense of Human Trafficking for the purposes of labor exploitation and set varying degrees of labor trafficking related offenses
7. Includes Human Trafficking in the state's Restitution and Forfeiture regulations as well as the Violent Crimes definitions.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT: www.traffickjamming.org
FACEBOOK EVENT LINK: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=207900812483&ref=mf
Formed in January 2009, the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (P.A.S.S.), a Hawaii-based not-for-profit 501(c)3 public charity, is a coalition of both secular and faith-based groups based in Hawaii who share the common mission to educate the public about the growing problem of human trafficking, provide aftercare and support to victims, outreach to unidentified or unrecognized victims, advocate for the passage of local state legislation to make human trafficking a felony offense (especially laws that focus on prosecuting pimps and "johns") and to ensure the enforcement of such legislation.
Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery