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    Senate bill targets sex trafficking

    RICHMOND – A bill introduced by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, would create new laws against sex trafficking in Virginia, Republican officials said Wednesday.

    Senate Bill 1188 would clearly define the offense of sex trafficking and establish the crime of sex trafficking involving a minor. Additionally, it states that when the victim is a minor, prosecutors wouldn’t have to prove that the trafficker used force, fraud or coercion.

    The bill, which has been assigned to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, will be co-sponsored by Republican Dels. Rob Bell of Charlottesville and Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah.

    “Human trafficking is one of the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprises. Especially troubling is the sexual trafficking of children. Children are being recruited into prostitution by gangs and traffickers in schools, neighborhoods, malls and online across Virginia,” Obenshain said.

    “Trafficking is the next front in the fight against child predators, with the average age of those entering prostitution being 13 – with many much younger. Human trafficking is a global calamity, but here in Virginia, we need to do everything within our power to end this terror and offer victims a chance at a new and better life.”

    GOP leaders from the Senate and House held a press conference Wednesday to highlight legislation against human trafficking. SB 1188 is a companion to House Bill 1964, sponsored by Del. Tim Hugo, R-Centreville.

    Both measures would classify sex trafficking as a Class 2 felony. They also would establish a mandatory minimum prison sentence if the perpetrator recruits a minor for sex trafficking. Recruitment of adults and minors for the purpose of commercial sex would also be criminalized.

    “We must continue to send traffickers, buyers and facilitators the message that they are not welcome in our state,” Hugo said. “Those who would seek to harm our children will know that our kids are not for sale in Virginia. Not now, and not ever.”

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