Lawmakers in Minnesota are reviewing a proposed law that would treat children trafficked for sex as victims instead of criminal offenders. The purpose of the bill is to help children caught up in the illicit sex trade get out and find treatment and safety. Currently, some cities in Minnesota already treat children involved in sex crimes as victims. The proposed law would bring uniformity to municipalities across the state.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, at least 100,000 children in the United States are victims of prostitution and commercial sex trafficking every year. Under current law in Minnesota children involved in prostitution are treated as both criminals and victims. Children and teenagers who are caught for prostitution are put into the juvenile justice system, which can create an unbreakable cycle with the justice system. Instead advocates say they should instead be given treatment and a safe place to live like a foster home.
Under the proposed law, children and teenagers under the age of 18 will receive services like medical care, short-term shelter and counseling instead of being treated as a juvenile delinquent. The director of public policy for The Family Partnership agrees with the new approach and says, “Sexually exploited kids are not criminals. They are children in need of protection.”
If the proposed law passes, it would go into effect in 2014. One female St. Paul police officer feels very strongly about child sex trafficking because she says a young girl does not want to be a prostitute when she grows up.
Source: MPR News, “Bill would protect children trafficked for sex,” Amy Forliti, 5/15/11