LANSING — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Judy Emmons to help stop sex trafficking by strengthening the punishment for soliciting a minor to commit prostitution.
“Human trafficking is a $32 billion global criminal industry that devastates the lives of thousands of women and children every year,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “As a mother and grandmother, it is particularly alarming to me that 40 percent of the time, these cases involve the sexual exploitation of a child. I introduced this bill to crack down on this deplorable crime and ensure we are doing everything we can to protect young girls and boys.”
Emmons’ measure, Senate Bill 1213, would make the solicitation of a minor age 16 or 17 to commit prostitution or any other lewd or immoral act a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of not more than $10,000 or both. SB 1221 is sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and would establish the sentencing guidelines for the new felony.
“My measure targets the individuals who solicit prostitutes, because they financially support this modern-day slavery,” Emmons said. “Due to their deviant and criminal actions, children and women continue to be sexually exploited against their will. I believe that the violator is just as guilty as the trafficker, and my bill will ensure that anyone attempting to exploit a child receives a severe punishment – one fitting the gravity of their crime.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking occurs if a person is induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud or coercion. However, any person under the age of 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking regardless of force, fraud or coercion.
In 2010, Michigan’s human trafficking laws were strengthened. In March, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s new Human Trafficking Unit secured the first conviction under the new laws. Information about human trafficking, including how to identify and report it, is available on the attorney general’s website at: www.michigan.gov/humantrafficking.
The bills have been sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.