Governor Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Safe Child Act into law yesterday! This is a huge victory in the fight against human trafficking and marks a significant, game-changing switch in the official attitude toward minors caught in the sex industry. Minors found in the sex trade will no longer be treated as criminals but will instead be treated as the victims they are and will be offered protective services. Simultaneously, this law gives law enforcement new tools for fighting trafficking.
At the signing Governor Quinn said, “For too long, exploited children have been treated as criminals, while the adults who stole their innocence go free. Illinois does not tolerate exploitation of our children. Today, we give important new tools to aid law enforcement in this fight and help our victimized children to heal.”
This law makes Illinois the first state in the U.S. to make those under 18 years old immune from prosecution for prostitution.
The Illinois Government News Network has the full press release.
This is the most important and exciting news I’ve read in… I don’t know, forever maybe?
Wow. Hyperbole much?
Well, ok, so “most important” is hard to quantify or justify. Especially in the midst of a week that brought the absolutely devastating floods in Pakistan. Floods which a seasoned relief worker called “the worst disaster I’ve ever seen.” Floods which have affected up to 20 million people. (Read how United Methodists are responding in Pakistan here. Donate to the effort here.)
Or is this announcement “more important” than the Haiti earthquake? Or the extended, awful, ridiculous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? I don’t know. There are more than enough peace/justice/human rights needs and causes to keep us all running ragged seemingly until the end of time. So feel free to focus on the issue or project that ignites your compassion and moves you to action.
What I do know without a doubt, is that this announcement is the very definition of good news.
It is good news for the 16,000-24,000 women and girls involved in the sex industry in Chicago on any given day. 90% of whom are physically or sexually abused by traffickers or customers. It is good news for many women in the sex trade because a majority of them enter the trade as a minor. It is good news for runaway youth because they are most likely to be approached to sell sex within 48 hours of being in the street. It is good news as it makes law enforcement and Department of Children and Family Services better equipped opponents of trafficking.
Huge props to Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez who worked hard to make this law a reality.
So with all this good news, my question now is: why hasn’t this story become news?!?
- Abolition: On the Front Lines with Mike Masten in Los Angeles, CA (humantrafficking.change.org)
- New York Law Clears Records for Survivors of Sex Trafficking (humantrafficking.change.org)
- The Body Shop Wants You to Help End Sex Trafficking (thegloss.com)