A bill that would help protect the victims of sex trafficking was approved today by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
House Bill 2518, by state Rep. Sally Kern, expands the definition of human trafficking to include the recruiting, harboring and transporting of a minor for the purpose of prostitution.
“Teenagers from difficult backgrounds are very vulnerable to being forced into prostitution and this legislation will help prosecute those individuals that recruit and harbor them,” said Kern (R-Oklahoma City). “It is only a small step in the right direction. More needs to be done to protect children from this horrendous crime.”
The bill’s passage comes only days after Oklahoma City police intervened when a 15-year-old girl was found prostituting on South Robinson Avenue. Authorities are investigating that situation to identify the individuals who exploited the girl.
Massage parlors and strip clubs are among businesses that are sometimes involved in illegal prostitution, Kern said.
The legislation also prohibits claiming consent of the minor as a means of defense. Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, false promises, debt bondage and other forms of control to keep victims involved in the sex industry, Kern said.
“It is outrageous to argue that a person who used manipulation to induce a minor into prostitution should avoid prosecution because the minor ‘consented.’ This legislation will eliminate this argument as a legal means of defense,” Kern said.
House Bill 2518 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 93-0 vote and now proceeds to the Senate for consideration.