Yesterday morning, an Indiana Senate committee approved a bill to strengthen the state’s laws on child and human trafficking. The Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 4 with a vote of 9-0.
More than 17,000 people are trafficked into the United States every year. Worldwide, 2.4 million children and adults are victims of trafficking and forced labour—four-fifths of whom are female and as many as one-fifth of whom are children.
The bill will now move before the whole Senate for a decision. If passed, it would become a law that would make it easier to prosecute cases on the sexual exploitation of children under 16 years old. Convicted criminals of such offences could face up to 20 or 30 years in prison. At the same time, the law would give breadth to the legal provisions applicable to cases of adult trafficking.
Lawyers and victim advocacy organizations have urged officials to pass the bill before the February 5th Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Governor Mitch Daniels and Indiana’s Attorney General have both expressed their support for the initiative.
“There are enormous economic benefits of hosting huge sporting events such as the Super Bowl, but the disturbing reality is that such gatherings in other states have drawn criminal rings that traffick young women and children into the commercial sex trade,” said the state’s Attorney General, Greg Zoeller, as per a government statement.
At the Miami Super Bowl, some 10,000 prostitutes were brought into the city. In Dallas, 1,500 trafficked women and children are said to have been left behind after the event. Also in Dallas, 133 protection-related arrests were made in the lead-up period to the Bowl.
As Mr. Zoeller put it, “the bill creates new legal tools,” helpful even if it prevents the exploitation of just one individual.
Countries’ responsibilities to protect children from economic and sexual exploitation, such as forced labour, prostitution and trafficking, are recognized under international human rights law such as the International Labour Organization’s Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.