Bill wants to offer legal protection for underage human trafficking victims

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Senate bill could help save the lives of human trafficking victims.

S. 188 filed by wants to offer protection for victims of human trafficking under the age of 18.

The “Safe Harbor for Exploited Minors Act” wants to provide protection for minors charged with certain crimes involving prostitution and coerced involvement.

Minors under the age of eighteen who are residing in or visiting the state and are engaged in commercial sexual acts or sex trafficking are to be concerned as crime victims. The act protects these minors from civil and criminal liability and provides immunity from prosecution.

The identity of the minor may not be disclosed to the public under this act.

The bill says minors charged with prostitution and related offenses may offer a defense of coercion or reasonable fear. The charges may be dismissed.

The South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force says the bill is very important. They call it a step forward in helping trafficking victims.

Reilly Arford said, “Now victims don’t have to be afraid of going to law enforcement. Now, they don’t have to be afraid to go to court.”

The Department of Juvenile Justice says as of February 5, 2019, they did not have any youth in their system charged with prostitution or human trafficking.

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