Cheh introduces legislation that would provide immunity to prostituted minors

Legislation will require the Metropolitan Police Department to refer minors to service providers consistent with their status as human trafficking victims.

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) introduced legislation that would provide immunity from prosecution for minors engaged in prostitution and would require the Metropolitan Police Department to refer those minors to the appropriate services providers that are consistent with their status as victims of human trafficking. Additionally, the bill would require human trafficking training for District law enforcement and social workers, to increase their knowledge of best practices for identifying and assessing these victims and their needs; provide reporting procedures for District agencies with custodial care of children, as many trafficking victims start out as runaways who resort to survival sex as homeless youth; and require bars, hotels, transportation hubs, and similar entities to post the toll-free national human-trafficking hotline. All of this follows approaches that other states have already taken.

“Sex trafficking of minors in the United States is a problem that affects the lives of millions of children. According to a 2011 FBI report on trafficking, nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk of being exploited and trafficked for sex each year. Most of these are young girls around the ages of 12 to 14,” said Cheh. “Additionally, as expressed by a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post authored by Malika Saada Saar, Director of the Human Rights Project for Girls, the way we view the children engaged in these activities is extremely flawed. Rather than viewing these children as victims, our society views these children as perpetrators of a crime or juvenile delinquents. And this is only perpetuated by the criminalization of these children. As the opinion piece so eloquently stated, there is no such thing as a child prostitute. Children who are sexually exploited for commercial purposes should be provided with a comprehensive victim-centered response that is tailored to eliminating any further harm to them. This bill aims to achieve that goal.”

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