Monday, April 22, 2013

Texas Sex Slavery Bill

The Texas Legislature is entertaining two identical bills dealing with Sex Slavery. The bills' language addresses the issue as "sex trafficking", particularly of minor children.

HB 3407 is scheduled for House floor debate and a possible floor vote on April 24, 2013. The companion bill, SB 1520 is still stuck in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.

The bills do not directly alter policy or increase investigations into possible sex slavery or sex trafficking. They do, however, enact better means for identifying the victims of human trafficking for purposes of sex slavery. The information gleaned from these measures can be used to better investigate, mitigate, and combat this crime especially when minors are involved.

Primarily, the bills direct practices to identify victims of sex slavery and provide them with services meant to assist their return to society.

The full texts of the bills can be read here and here.

       (a)  In this section, "sex trafficking"  means an offense under Section 20A.02(a)(7), Penal Code. 
       (b)  The department shall evaluate the practices and screening procedures used by juvenile probation departments for the early identification of juveniles who are victims of sex trafficking for the purpose of developing a recommended set of best practices that may be used by a juvenile probation department to improve the juvenile probation department's ability to identify a juvenile who is a victim of sex trafficking.

As with many border states, Texas deals with several cases of sex slavery a year. The problem is not unidirectional. US Citizens are duped, coerced, abducted, or otherwise taken over the border. From there, they are transported to other foreign locations to serve as prostitutes, indentured concubines, and "stars" for "adult entertainment".

While adults in the US may voluntarily enter the "sex industry", particularly as dancers or adult film actors, victims of sex trafficking and sex slavery are more often than not minor children.

Minors from other countries are also smuggled into or through the US for the same purposes. Many of these minor children end up forced into prostitution or to engage in child pornography.

As with Arizona, "rape trees" in border areas are not uncommon. These are locations where a chosen victim is raped and beaten in an effort to terrorize the other victims into submission. Often, indentured servitude as prostitutes is considered part of the contract with smugglers who promise passage into the US.

The movie "The Whistle-Blower" starring Rachel Weisz depicts the story of Kathryn Bolkovac. Kathryn Bolkovac discovered a sex slavery ring in the Balkans and has since taken up the cause on a global scale. The movie "Taken" starring Liam Neeson depicts a fictitious black-ops "operator" who rescues his daughter who is abducted while visiting Europe.

Sex trafficking and slavery is not always abduction. Minors may go to parties where drugs and alcohol flow freely. They may be duped or coerced into being victims. Sometimes a charismatic predator will prey upon disenfranchised teens, convincing them to run away. Next thing they know, they are trapped in a dark world often aggravated by induced drug addiction.

A charity named "Free The Girls" assists freed sex-slaves by helping them sell braziers (donated gently used or inexpensive new) in order to develop self-esteem and a trade other than the sex industry. In some countries, particularly in Africa, braziers of any type are considered luxury items owned only by the privileged.

Other organizations including some set-up by former members of various military special operations units work to assist in increasing awareness of sex slavery as well as helping law enforcement officials combat this heinous crime.

The passage of this and better border enforcement laws in addition to an immigration reform package that makes legal immigration easier will help to combat sex slavery and sex trafficking. So does enforcing current drug, child pornography, and prostitution laws.  Despite what some may claim, drug smuggling, prostitution, and child pornography are anything but "victimless crimes".