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Hawaii becomes last state to ban sex trafficking

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    Hawaii Gov. David Ige signs a bill banning sex trafficking as members of the Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus applaud on Tuesday, July 5, 2016, in Honolulu. Hawaii became the last state in the nation to explicitly ban sex trafficking.

Hawaii has become the last state in the nation to explicitly ban sex trafficking.

Gov. David Ige signed the bill into law Tuesday. It makes sex trafficking a violent crime and class A felony, expands the statewide witness protection program to include sex trafficking and provides victims access to criminal injury compensation.

“It’s a historic day for Hawaii. Now, from sea to sea, the United States can say it banned sexual slavery,” said Kris Coffield, executive director of Imua Alliance, which works with sex trafficking victims. “The most direct benefit for victims is that now, instead of being criminalized and put in a jail cell, and facing prosecution, they’ll be placed in a support services network and treated as victims of violent crimes instead of accomplices to their own exploitation.”

Before Ige signed the bill, Hawaii was the only state in the nation without a law that specifically banned sex trafficking. Human trafficking was banned, but people paid for sex work could be prosecuted under the law, regardless of how they got into the sex trade.

Advocates have been pushing for a ban for more than a decade. Last year, Ige vetoed a similar bill after prosecutors said it would make it more difficult to catch the perpetrators.

“Victims who come forward will have more protections, more ability to be protected from being forced to testify,” said Kathryn Xian, executive director of Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, who has been pushing the bill for a decade. “Sometimes it’s very dangerous.”

Ige also signed a bill that provides funds for law enforcement agencies to test untested sex assault evidence kits. The Honolulu Police Department had about 1,500 rape kits that had not been tested earlier this year.

With the passage of the bill, victims of sex assault will see that “their experiences matter, that they should be treated with dignity and respect, and that’s something that’s reflected in the law, that they can’t be put on a shelf to collect dust,” said Cathy Betts, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women.

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  • finally…there is a history and political/cultural set of reasons for why Hawaii was last to do this. We need an article on those reasons.

  • Surprised to see Republican Fukumoto-Chang from Mililani there since she voted against women’s rights on multiple occasions which is typical of the Republican party. Many in Mililani wish we had Marilyn Lee back in office.

    • I agree. It’s sad we are the last. Should have been at least the top 10. Goes to show how are law makers think. They probably were involved in that and didn’t want their pleasures taken away.

  • Until a few years ago the “age of consent’ for sex in Hawaii was 14. That means a man age 50 could have sex with a willing girl of 14 and there was no law against it. Now the age of consent is 16 in Hawaii. When the bill was in the legislature to raise the age from 14 to 16, there were some members of the legislature who voted against it, because, they said, some cultures are accustomed to the lower age.

    • Had to google it, has nothing to do with sex in traffic : Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States and globally. Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will.

  • Congratulations!. This bill is a result of years of work, by the Women’s Legislative Caucus, the
    Women’s Coalition, the Democratic Women’s Caucus and many others in the community.
    The effectiveness of the bill is yet to be determined, but it is a good start. For one thing, the community needs to be educated about sex trafficking and how it can be prevented.

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