Alaska Lawmakers Create Tough Sex Trafficking Laws
HB 359 would make human trafficking a serious felony offense
ALASKA - In an effort to stop sex trafficking in Alaska, lawmakers are creating tougher penalties.
HB 359 would add human trafficking in the first degree and sex trafficking in the first degree to the crimes defined as serious felony offenses.
"We are raising the age to 20, for where a sex trafficker, a pimp, hires somebody to engage in prostitution,” said Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage), in the house on Wednesday.
Under the current law the victim must be younger than 18.
"The truth is when you are 19 you are just as susceptible at being dragged into this type of trade, we want to give young women a chance to reach an age where they can finally figure out there is a better way in life than this,” said Gara.
People working on the front lines helping people who are caught up in prostitution said pimps and sex traffickers should all be as strictly prosecuted, no matter what the victim's age.
“I don't think changing it a few years is going to discourage them very much, it's a business and people are making a lot of money off innocent girls no matter what age,” said Stephanie Freeman, the Social Justice Assistant for Salvation Army in Alaska.
"I would say age-wise there really isn't much of a difference anyone can become a victim of human trafficking of heard of cases as young as 3 years old up to ladies that are much older until they can't get anymore business out of them anymore,” said Freeman.
The bill will create tougher penalties for people who pay for a child prostitute.
“It raises penalties for an adult patron of child prostitution from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C felony if the patron is at least 3 years older than the child," said Representative Anna Fairclough (R-Eagle River) on the house floor, Wednesday.
Representative Bob Herron (D-Bethel) said one of the reasons he supported the bill is because of the young Yupik women in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region who are targeted.
“These young women, young girls, are easy prey for unscrupulous,” said Herron. “Most evil people on earth, they lure them and they take them to Anchorage and elsewhere and we never see them come back.”
The bill will also change language used in the law so instead of the crime being referred to as promoting prostitution, it will be referred to as "sex trafficking."
Supporters of the move said the term sex trafficking more accurately describes what is happening to a person under the age of 18.
The bill was unanimously supported and is in the hands of the senate.