Yesterday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 5 into law. The new law creates tougher criminal penalties for human traffickers.
The Toledo Blade described the new law, as “the latest to tackle the state’s human trafficking problem, particularly when it comes to the sex trade. Past laws have increased penalties for traffickers and the “johns” who buy the services they’re selling and cracked down on massage parlors that front for prostitution.”
In Florida, we are all too familiar with the “efforts to crack down on human trafficking”, one of which resulted in the arrest of some high-profile “customers” as well as the arrests of the “trafficked” persons at a massage parlor in Jupiter.
When people think of human trafficking they think of human beings, even children, smuggled into the country and forced to work as sex slaves. That’s because the definition of human trafficking is, “the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation.” (Oxford Dictionary). The Department of Homeland Security describes it as, “involv[ing] the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”
When it comes to these laws, if that were actually the case, clearly everything possible should be done to rescue those trafficked. The only problem is, the actual definition of human trafficking doesn’t even remotely describe what took place in the Orchids of Asia Spa or in the overwhelming majority of cases that will be caught up in the net of these new laws that are being passed across the country under the guise of curbing human trafficking.
When Florida created its “John Registry” this past legislative session an advocacy group for sex workers, Sex Workers Outreach Project (known by the acronym SWOP), which promotes decriminalization as the best means of decreasing harm and promoting agency among people in the sex trade, spoke out strongly AGAINST the bill. When an organization of suggested “victims” speaks out against a law that is intended to “help them”, you know there’s something wrong with the law.
Just like the current laws designed to register and regulate the laws of people considered “sex offenders”, the majority of people caught up in the net will not be the type of predatory repeat offenders that lawmakers or the public considered when passing the law.
Another byproduct of these new wave of human trafficking laws is that it will make it more dangerous for the “victims”. Instead of operating out of store fronts or advertising online (where they are on their home-turf or have an electronic trail should something go wrong) they will be forced underground, where in the very rare occurrences where something does go wrong, they will be more vulnerable.
Just like FAC does not advocate for sexual offending, we are also strongly against actual human trafficking. But just like we feel the current sex offender laws are incredibly misguided, we also feel that these new human trafficking laws completely miss the mark as well. A laser focused, well researched law can be an effective tool. a scattershot, knee-jerk law will just create a bunch of collateral damage.