HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut lawmakers advanced legislation Thursday that supporters said would create some of the nation’s toughest laws against human trafficking.
The House of Representatives voted 146-0 for a bill that would give courts authority to seize from convicted pimps any assets derived from the sexual exploitation of a minor. The measure now moves to the Senate.
The bill was amended to include several other proposals related to human trafficking.
Backers said adding the words “force” and “fraud” to the definition of coercion used in human trafficking will strengthen the hand of prosecutors. The bill would also make it a felony to knowingly solicit prostitution from a minor or a victim of human trafficking.
Another provision removes prostitution convictions from the criminal records of people identified as victims of human trafficking.
The bill also requires truck stops to post information about the rights of trafficking victims and the services available to them, and it establishes a task force to study human trafficking and its ramifications in Connecticut.
Advocates portray the proposal as a continuation of an effort that began last year with a ban on advertisements for sex that depict minors. They say it could be a model for other states to follow in the fight against the sex slave industry.
At a news conference last month, proponents of the legislation said most victims of human trafficking in Connecticut are not foreigners but young women and men from the state who are lured into forced prostitution.
“They are victims, and they should be treated as any other abused victim and re-victimized by being treated as a criminal,” said former House Speaker Jim Amann.
As many as 300,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
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