Pennsylvania to look at revising human trafficking definition

Below is an article written by Robert Swift from Standard Speaker. The article talks about the possibility of Pennsylvania revising its human trafficking definition so it is broader in scope. However, revising the definition is not the only problem. In the article, it talks about the realities of human trafficking and how it is often dealt with by the state/individual. The article states that many do not know how to deal with human trafficking victims, so they write them off as criminals. That is what society cannot do. Human trafficking victims are just that, victims. Throwing them in jail is not the answer. Re-educating them and assimilating them back into society, while prosecuting their captures/pimps/johns is.

Its is not enough to change a definition unless there is an understanding of the problem. And human trafficking is a global problem— one that has often been overlooked or guided by ignorance.

Study aims to define human trafficking

By ROBERT SWIFT (Harrisburg Bureau Chief)
Published: July 28, 2012

HARRISBURG – An effort to legally define human trafficking in a broader sense as covering forced sex through prostitution, forced labor at businesses and involuntary servitude is emerging with release of a study in June by a state legislative research agency.

Pennsylvania’s role as a transportation hub has led some to consider it a “pass through” state for human trafficking, but it’s also a source of victims and a destination for victims brought from elsewhere, according to the study by the Joint State Government Commission.

The study examines the scope of human trafficking in Pennsylvania and makes recommendations to raise awareness of the problem, toughen penalties, provide training for first responders and more help to victims.

In Pennsylvania, human trafficking can involve forced labor at a salon, prostitution at truck stops and sex-for-sale through Internet postings. On a global scale, human trafficking is considered the second-largest form of organized crime after illegal drugs. An estimated 12.3 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking.

The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines sex trafficking as using force, fraud or coercion to induce individuals to perform a commercial sex act. The law says inducing minors under age 18 to perform such an act is defined as sex trafficking regardless of whether force, fraud or coercion is involved.

The act defines labor trafficking as the recruitment, harboring or transportation of a person for labor through force, fraud or coercion.

“While the crime of human trafficking is not in its infancy, combating the crime at the state level is new,” the study said.

One problem identified by the study is that trafficking as a crime is not widely understood and the victims can be treated as criminals.

“If police are not specially trained to identify human trafficking, victims of sexual abuse can be incarcerated as prostitutes and forced laborers as illegals,” the study added.

“We have to raise public attention and awareness of it,” said Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, Willow Grove, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Without public awareness, we are not going to be able to make a dent in this.”

Greenleaf sponsored a resolution authorizing the study in 2010. He plans to introduce legislation containing the study’s recommendations. The issue will likely get more attention in the next legislative session that starts in January.

Pennsylvania made trafficking in persons a felony offense under a 2006 state law that doesn’t draw clear distinctions between sex and labor trafficking, according to the study. Pennsylvania has traditionally dealt with sexual slavery in the context of laws dealing with sex crimes and prostitution.

The study recommends creating a title of offenses related to human trafficking in the crime code. Among the specific crimes that would be prosecuted under the title are trafficking in individuals and gaining financial benefit, knowingly patronizing a victim of sexual servitude and revoking state licenses and permits for businesses that aid or participate in human trafficking.

Other recommendations call for creating a statewide council to address trafficking issues, having Pennsylvania participate in a national hot line, providing more training to first responders and more government aid to services helping victims.

The House approved legislation in May to toughen the penalty for those who traffic minors to a first-degree felony from a third-degree felony and make a parent who knowingly sells or trades a child into commercial sex subject to a second-degree felony.

A bill moving through the Senate would require specific establishments (including massage parlors, spas, commercial truck stops, airports, trains and bus stations) to post state-designed signs regarding the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline.

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About Haley Behre

I graduated from Syracuse University in December 2011 with majors in newspaper journalism and women and gender studies. Using these majors, I aspire to become a journalist who writes about human rights issues. I have held internships at the Syracuse New Times, Dash Media PR Firm, Syracuse Post-Standard and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I also had an internship at the Not For Sale Campaign Syracuse chapter, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. I was born in Seoul, Korea on September 30, 1990 and moved to the United States before I was one year old. When I was 8, my family and I moved to Norwich, England for three years. While I was here I was immersed into a new culture and got to experience many things other children my age do not get to. Over the three years, I visited Ireland, France and the Netherlands several times, and Belgium, Wales and Sweden once. In the winter of 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya for a month. This was by far the single most eye-opening experience of my life thus far. The natural beauty of the landscape and its people do not compare to anything I have seen. I currently intern for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in the hopes of getting a full-time job at a newspaper or non-profit after.
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