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New York State Agrees on Law Against Sexual and Labor Trafficking

ALBANY, May 16 — State lawmakers and Governor Spitzer have agreed to make labor and sex-trafficking felonies, breaking a deadlock on an issue many in the state thought should have been resolved long ago.  The successful passage of the legislation marks an important milestone in fighting the sex slavery trade, the third largest criminal industry in the world. Trafficking is one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute and most insidious problem to solve.

Anti Trafficking“New York is finally joining the ranks of other states in ensuring that those who exploit innocent people and children and cause extreme suffering are subject to strict punishment under state law,” Governor Spitzer said in a statement.

Advocates said the agreement reached between Mr. Spitzer and the Legislature would give New York one of the toughest and most comprehensive laws in the nation. On May 2, a large contingent of religious women, organized by The New York Coalition of Religious Congregations – Stop Trafficking of Persons (NYCRC-STOP) met face to face with law makers in Albany. Jeanne Shary, OP (Sparkill) spearheaded the Dominican participation in that effort.

New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition's Dara Kerr said, “This legislation fulfills the six essential elements the Coalition has been fighting for these past three years and longer.” The bill has strong provisions on penalties, patronizing prostitution, sex tourism, the definition of trafficking, services for trafficking victims, and once passed into law, will be the strongest state legislation on trafficking in the Nation.

"This amazing accomplishment would not have happened without the leadership and vision of Governor Spitzer.  It would also not have happened without the strength and outstanding advocacy of this Coalition," said Kerr.

Although there are federal laws against human trafficking — essentially a modern form of slavery — some state lawmakers and advocacy groups say they are insufficient. Federal law enforcement has focused mostly on the largest criminal trafficking rings, rather than smaller operations like sweatshops and brothels, advocacy groups say.

At least 29 states already have laws specifically addressing human trafficking. The State Department has estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people a year are brought into the United States and then used for forced labor or sex, although experts say such statistics are inexact estimates.

Six Points to Effective Anti-Trafficking Legislation

1. Define trafficking with reference to the typical kinds of fraud and coercion that traffickers commonly use on their victims, rather than the narrow doctrine of "imminent threat of force."

2. Create strong penalties for the traffickers-enough to provide meaningful deterrence.

3. Address those who patronize the sex industry, as they create the demand that makes and creates the motive for trafficking.

4. Clarify existing law on sex tourism in order to stop the sex tour operators who conduct business.

5. Create remedies for victims of trafficking, including a defense for trafficked individuals who are sometimes arrested for the very acts of prostitution that they are coerced to perform; allow victims to recover restitution and damages from traffickers.

6. Provide services to assist trafficking victims in rehabilitating their lives.

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