Bill Aims to Protect Against Prostitution

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - Between one and two million women and children worldwide will benefit from a legislative item offering protections against prostitution if the Senate and president approve, a spokesman for the bill's author said.

House Resolution 3244, the Trafficking and Violence Victims Protection Act of 2000, is expected to pass the Senate this week, Chris Connelly with Rep. Chris Smith's (R-N.J.) office said, and will then likely gain the signature of President Bill Clinton almost immediately.

The $95 million measure "would increase sentencing" of those convicted of trafficking in prostitution to equal that of kidnappers and rapists, Connelly explained. The money itself would create various law enforcement and protection programs so women and children victims would be able to escape prostitution and change their lifestyles.

Though some funds will be diverted to countries targeted as high-risk areas to women and children attempting to escape or avoid prostitution - in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine, Connelly said - nearly 50,000 in the U.S. will benefit directly from the measure.

"[The bill] sets up programs [overseas] and empowers those nations to clamp down on trafficking in prostitution," Connelly said. "But about 50,000 women and children are brought into this country each year" by traffickers seeking to expand their prostitution rings into the U.S.

"The people who are at fault are targeted under this bill," he continued. "The punishment is not directed at the victims themselves."

The measure has received the support of the Independent Women's Forum, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C. organization, whose spokespeople have been critical of Clinton's past suggestions on curbing prostitution.

In 1995, around the time frame of the Beijing Women's Conference, Clinton formed a council that outlined a measure presented to the United National that would have forced prostitution victims worldwide to prove they were unwilling participants before suspected traffickers could be brought to court, IWF Director of Economic Projects Christine Stolba said.

The president's council, Stolba said, "tried to add the word forced" in defining the true female victims of the prostitution rings. In other words, she explained, only those women who could prove they were prostitutes by "force" rather than by choice would be granted protection and prosecution privileges under the UN.

The addition of that one word, Stolba continued, "would have made it difficult to prosecute international prostitution" trafficking offenders, because of the time-consuming, expensive mandate that victims first "gather all the information and witnesses" to prove they were unwilling participants.

"From an education standpoint, I think this [H.R. 3244] is an important piece of legislation," she said. "We've been very critical of the president's council ... because [prostitution] is exploitive of women whether they're forced or not.

"We don't have a huge trafficking problem here in the U.S.," Stolba continued, "but anything that's going to stop international trafficking will benefit all women, even Americans."

Those convicted in the U.S. of trafficking in prostitution, under the proposed bill, could face life imprisonment, while those found guilty of the offense abroad could bring "severe economic sanctions" against their countries, according to a press release from Smith's office.