Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Editor Re: Georgia Senate Bill 304

The Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee has received a new bill, S.B. No. 304 for consideration. It should be considered and discarded as rapidly as possible.

The proposed law seeks to decriminalize (the legalizing of an illegal act) prostitution for offenders under the age of 16. While we recognize that the boys and girls exploited by prostitution are often trapped in a cycle of pimp control, drug abuse, and criminal activity, there are better ways to help them than this ill-advised legislation.

Decriminalization creates a friendly environment for pimps and traffickers. By tying the hands of police, victims cannot be identified and separated from their handlers. Law enforcement needs these laws to obtain testimony against the exploiters and, most importantly, to help the victims.

Other jurisdictions have proven that there are better alternatives to decriminalization. Upon arrest (they do not have to be prosecuted if arrested), victims can be identified and placed in diversionary programs designed for rescue and rehabilitation. They can also be provided with an affirmative defense to criminal charges. But in all these cases, the arrest is the action that allows for the intervention leading to education or rehabilitation.

Vigorous law enforcement pursuit of traffickers and johns will make prostitution less profitable and, thereby, make it harder to sustain. Enforcing the laws on the books against johns and pimps should be the focus of law enforcement—without demand, prostitution and trafficking do not exist.

Those who struggle to help these children all agree on the need to “do something”, but S.B. 304 is not the answer. Our laws establish a set of rules of conduct recognized and established by the community. Decriminalization of minors sends the message that the community accepts children in prostitution—it normalizes it. Only pimps, traffickers and johns believe children should be in prostitution, so why make it legal for minors under the age of 16?

There is nothing normal about one human being buying access to another, especially in the case of a child being purchased by an adult. The children of Georgia deserve better protection than that provided by Georgia Senate Bill 304. We trust the Senate Judiciary Committee will quickly recognize this and reject this proposed legislation.

Dale Austin, Legislative Liaison,
CWA of Georgia
Concerned Women for America

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