Time to tackle sex trafficking

By Our Stance

Published: Sunday, February 12, 2012

Updated: Sunday, February 12, 2012

The criminal industry of human trafficking sounds like something that afflicts only foreign nations. It is, however, a $32 billion industry in the United States and a major problem under Florida's laws, which are simply not tough enough on the crime.

Over the recent Super Bowl weekend, South Florida law enforcement agencies were put on high alert for child sex slaves being sold to partiers, according to The Palm Beach Post. The report said South Florida ranks just behind New York and Los Angeles as a gateway for human trafficking.

The sex trafficking trade is typically attracted to large events like the Super Bowl because of the crowds and amount of money involved. During the 2009 game held in Tampa, Florida's Department of Children and Families rescued 24 child victims of sex trafficking, according to the Daily Beast.

Unlike prostitution, which normally defines the sex trade, trafficking often involves homeless, runaway or kidnapped children who are forced into sex work or even work that doesn't involve sex, like domestic servitude or some form of hard labor. These victims are effectively slaves who can literally be locked up in bondage or threatened with violence.

Lately, the issue of human trafficking has been thrust into the limelight, partly because President Barack Obama declared January National Human Trafficking Awareness month. A recent rally at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando, by the group Florida Abolitionist, brought attention to the global problem that is hitting close to home. At the event, Assistant State Attorney Ryan Vescio said that under current Florida laws, "the crime of delivery of cocaine is punished more severely than that of human trafficking," according to WESH 2 Orlando.

Last week, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi advocated for tougher legislation to combat human trafficking. The attorney general's office is standing in support of Senate Bill 1880 and House Bill 7049, which would combine Florida's three existing human trafficking laws, according to First Coast News. The bills' sponsors are Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) and Rep. William Snyder (R-Stuart).

If passed, the bills would "lengthen prison sentences for traffickers or smugglers to match federal guidelines and would expand police authority for surveillance and property seizure," according to the Post. Other proposed legislation would support victims of child sex trafficking with treatment and housing.

The human trafficking industry is one that should be hastily eradicated from Florida's black market. Victims of these brutal crimes also deserve help in the form of medical treatment, temporary housing and a way to contact and return to their families. Opponents of this repulsive criminal enterprise deserve all the support they can get.

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