Arkansas is moving a step closer to toughing its laws protecting human trafficking victims, less than a year after a national advocacy group scolded the state for having some of the nation’s poorest laws for those types of crimes.
The Arkansas House voted 91-0 to approve a bill, which the governor has pledged to sign, that would offer new protections to victims: allowing them to sue their abductor, creating new penalties for anyone who knowingly patronizes a prostitute who is a human trafficking victim; as well as allowing the attorney general to create a task force to suggest other ways to address human trafficking. The Arkansas Senate has passed an identical bill which defines human trafficking as harboring or transporting a person with the intent to subject them to involuntary servitude and sexual exploitation.
“The fact is that it’s a problem in Arkansas,” said Representative David Meeks, R-Conway, who sponsored the bill. “It’s a hidden crime that’s very hard to see. Human trafficking does often have an interstate component, so that would fall under federal law. But in Arkansas, you had prosecutors who didn’t know that human trafficking existed or knew about it but you saw them using other statutes because the penalty on it was not tough enough.”
The Polaris Project, a national group working against human trafficking, last year dubbed Arkansas one of the “faltering four” states in terms of legislation to protect victims of such crimes. “We are pleased that Arkansas’ legislators are making significant efforts to strengthen the state’s laws against human trafficking,” Polaris spokeswoman Megan Fowler said. “These are the types of actions we want to see all states take to protect victims of human trafficking, punish traffickers, and prevent this crime and human rights abuse from occurring.”
Learn more at Michael Stratford’s The Republic article: Arkansas House approves bill that would toughen the state’s human trafficking law.