At the start of each new year we’re subjected to a whole host of new laws. The modern liberal government, you see, imagines itself not as the champion of individual freedom but as Mommy and Daddy, a taskmaster charged with controlling your life. Most of the time, it makes everything, including our lives, worse.
Case in point: California. Completely at the mercy of the left, which now controls two-thirds of the state government, California serves as a living illustration of what the left really wants to accomplish. As of Jan. 1, that includes decriminalizing what is commonly called “child prostitution.”
They may not have technically legalized it, but decriminalizing the act per se will have the same results, while putting exploited children in even more danger.
First, let’s make one thing clear right now: There is no such thing as “child prostitution.” The fact is we’re dealing with the sex trafficking of girls and boys. This isn’t some horror reserved for Thailand or some other far-off place — it’s happening right here in the United States.
More than 1,000 children are arrested each year for prostitution, with estimates of sex trafficking involving 100,000 to 2.4 million children. Concerned Women for America reports, “The United States Department of Justice uses the number 293,000 as the estimate for youth ‘at risk’ of being commercially sexually exploited.”
The fact that these children are victims is not disputed, but what California has just done makes the problem even worse.
A revelatory op-ed in the Washington Examiner by Travis Allen, one of the few Republicans in the California legislature, declaring the state had “legalized” child prostitution, made waves and garnered much-needed attention to the issue.
Mr. Travis wrote, “Beginning on Jan. 1, prostitution by minors will be legal in California. Yes, you read that right. SB 1322 bars law enforcement from arresting sex workers who are under the age of 18 for soliciting or engaging in prostitution, or loitering with the intent to do so. So teenage girls (and boys) in California will soon be free to have sex in exchange for money without fear of arrest or prosecution.”
So what can law enforcement in California do when they encounter a child selling themselves on the street for sex? The Sacramento Bee explains, “Commercially sexually exploited children, based on the bill’s analysis, may be taken into temporary custody ‘if the minor has an immediate need for medical care, or … is in immediate danger of physical or sexual abuse, or the physical environment’ or the child’s unattended status ‘poses an immediate threat to the child’s health or safety.’ “
The operative word here is, of course, “immediate.” But don’t worry — there is something the police must do. The Bee continued to defend the law by assuring readers, “Under the law, officers who encounter minors [selling themselves for sex] must report the circumstances to the county child welfare agency as abuse or neglect.”
That’s right. They must report it to a government agency.
So here’s the truth of the matter: This law tells the police there is nothing they are allowed to do with a child obviously engaging in an act against his or her will; an act that amounts to rape once the child sells himself or herself to the stranger looking for a child to purchase.
The obscenity of this law is clear: Not only does it tie the hands of law enforcement in removing the child from a threatening environment, it sends a message to the victimized children that their sex trafficker is in charge, that society accepts and allows what’s happening, and ultimately, there is no escape.
Mr. Travis notes, this vicious circle “translates into bigger and better cash flow for the pimps. Simply put, more time on the street and less time in jail means more money for pimps, and more victims for them to exploit.”
Why would California put sex-trafficked children in such danger by tying the hands of law enforcement when there are alternatives to treating them like criminals? Several states already have legislation that managed to recognize the victim status of the children without abandoning them.
Concerned Women for America reports, “New York and Washington State have laws that divert minors arrested for prostitution into services and rehabilitation programs at the discretion of the judge in New York and at the discretion of the prosecutor in Washington. … In Massachusetts, the law diverts minors found in prostitution into services and treatment but keeps the charges pending against them in place until they successfully complete the rehabilitation programs after which the charges are dropped.”
If you’re serious about saving children, you don’t limit what law enforcement can do, you expand their options while making sure children are treated as victims, while using the justice system as a way to remove them from their enslavement. Instead, the liberals who run California have just done the opposite, guaranteeing lives ruined while allowing an evil problem to continue virtually unchecked.
• Tammy Bruce, author and Fox News contributor, is a radio talk show host.
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