Arkansas now has a beefed-up statute designed to deal with human trafficking offenses after the Governor signed the Human Trafficking Act of 2013 into law Tuesday.
The bill will exempt victims of human trafficking from being prosecuted for prostitution and it stiffens penalties for human traffickers.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican Representative Missy Irvin of Mountain View, says the bill will help the fight against human trafficking in Arkansas.
“The most important part of the bill is that it strengthens the penalties and it really puts some meat and some teeth into the law now. And it gives law enforcement the tools now, and the prosecutors the tools that they need to really fully go after the folks in human trafficking and prosecute it to the fullest degree,” Irvin said.
The law also allows the state attorney general to establish a task force to prevent human trafficking for reasons involving both labor and sex.
Republican Representative David Meeks of Conway is also one of the bill’s sponsors; he says there will now be more protections for victims who come forward.
“They say about 50 percent of those that are in prostitution are not there by choice and are actually being trafficked and [are] in slavery, so, we feel once that the word gets out victims know that there are protections, that some of them actually come out, that we’ll be able to help them and we’ll be able to prosecute the traffickers,” Meeks said.
The bill’s sponsors also say the law will many of the victims of trafficking are children.