After her mother called 911, a 19-year-old girl was rescued from a hotel room where she had been held captive by four men, and forced to sell her body for sex to men who’d seen an advertisement on backpage.com. This happened in Maryland, just last month. In this case, the trafficking ring was uncovered, and the perpetrators arrested. But in many cases, the story unfolds in a different way. The girl may be too afraid to ask for help and in many cases law enforcement may not recognize it as a trafficking situation. The girl may be charged with prostitution, and simply put right back into the traffickers hands. This is the reason that Maryland law needs to change.
When a girl or woman with a criminal record of prostitution does finally escape the control of her trafficker, Maryland law currently fails her. However, a bill allowing the removal of those prostitution convictions that occurred while she was a victim of trafficking could make all the difference for a survivor in being able to find a job or housing in the future. This legislation (HB 266/ SB 327) has passed the Senate, and has just passed the House, though each was amended differently and we are urging legislators to work out these differences and to send the bill to the governor.
This is not the only human trafficking bill under consideration in the final days of the 2011 Maryland session, which ends on April 11, 2011.
The other bills that will significantly help in the fight against human trafficking will help to punish traffickers, and locate and provide assistance to victims. HB1304, passed the House today, requires that the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline number be posted at truck stops and other areas of transit – key locations for sex trafficking in Maryland. Another (HB 418/ SB247) mandates asset forfeiture for people convicted of trafficking, taking away the profits and ill-gotten gains derived or used in the course of human trafficking. While this bill passed the Senate unanimously for the second year in a row, it has so far not been brought to a vote by the House Judiciary committee. A fourth bill (HB674) which passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate, requires that educators and others working in schools are provided with information on human trafficking and how to identify potential student victims. You can read more about all of these bills here.
Thousands of others have already showed their support for these bills – you can too by making a 30 second phone call to your Maryland state legislators. Maryland lawmakers need to know that human trafficking is in their state – we’ve received more than 460 calls from Maryland to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline since 2007 (you can find more statistics and information about the trafficking situation in Maryland here). You can also help by signing this petition to show your support for change in Maryland law to provide more support for victims and harsher penalties for traffickers.
Human trafficking is happening in Maryland and we need your help to get the word out. Sign our petition, share it with your friends, talk to your legislators, and visit our action alert or MD state page to find out more!
Photo credit: M.V. Jantzen