Target: New York lawmakers
Goal: Protect minors who are victims of human trafficking from being prosecuted
New York lawmakers are voting on a bill that would include raising the age of prosecution for someone who was coerced into prostitution to 18. This would be a large step in ensuring that the rights of minors involved in prostitution are given the respect, resources, and help that they need rather than being punished.
While the age of consent for sexual activities is 18, it doesn’t make sense to prosecute minors for prostitution. If minors are not considered mature enough to consent to sex, they should be regarded as victims in cases of prostitution. Stella Marr, a former victim of trafficking described the necessity of help rather than prosecution in the case of minors involved in trafficking. She explains that, “Traffickers are violent, they threaten you, they threaten your family. I was manipulated, threatened, and I felt I had no other choice.”
If the bill passes, New York will become only the fifth state to protect minors against being prosecuted for prostitution. The incredibly small number of states that provide protection for minors who are victims of trafficking indicates the necessity of this bill and others like it being passed. The hopelessness that comes with being trapped in a situation like many of these minors are in can be significantly helped if they know that they have law officials protecting them rather than prosecuting them as criminals.
Lauren Hersh, the New York director of Equality Now said that, “We need to start seeing children in prostitution as victims not ‘child prostitutes’ which implies a level of voluntariness. One of the things traffickers say to victims is that law enforcement will never believe them. Here in NY state and world-wide we need to shift that paradigm.”
Dear New York Lawmakers,
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s bill protecting minors involved in human trafficking against prosecution is crucial and needs to be passed. Regardless of politics, this bill helps minors on a human level from the cruel, violent, and degrading treatment they face at the hands of traffickers.
The age of consent in New York is 18. It follows then that minors involved in prostitution must be treated as victims and not as willing participants in something they cannot legally have consented to. Subjecting these minors to prosecution as criminals only puts them in more danger and reinforces the idea that they are not worthy of protection and care.
This bill would work to reduce the stigmas and fears surrounding human trafficking and would work to provide the help and resources necessary to minors who have been coerced into trafficking. Despite how these minors ended up in the situation, they need help and support rather than prosecution. Treating these children as criminals would only further prevent them from getting out of the situation and feeling as though someone cared enough to help them. I urge you to pass Governor Cuomo’s bill and show your support for victims of human trafficking.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Not For Sale via Feminspire