As a Californian, I am very upset with the Californian Senate for passing Senate Bill 1322. Frankly, the bill that was supposed to help stop sex trafficking of minors is now going to make it harder to get the victims out of harm’s way. The bill is making it illegal for people less than eighteen years of age to be arrested for prostitution. At first, I was happy to see a bill protecting victims that are usually stigmatized and blamed for their own victimization to be protected by law. Sadly while that was the reason for the bill, the bill will actually make it easier to victimize children and make them a bigger target than before in California.
Bills are meant to help people, and when people propose them I am sure they mean the very best for the people. Some bills are counter-intuitive. People noticed this with a previous law in California that said children could not be tried as an adult for murder. This was to protect children, perhaps who act in self-defense or are unaware of their actions due to their age. After the law was in place, crimes within the gangs of California began to use their younger member in murders. This was so their younger members, still doing the same crime the adults would have done, but with less jail time. This subsided after a new law was in place that allowed children of fourteen years or older to be tried as an adult for murder under certain circumstances.
I believe we have a similar law with Senate Bill 1322. While in the spirit it keeps children who are victims of sex crimes from facing legal punishment it also makes it legal for them to have sex for money. Now people have tried to counter this by saying that it does not truly make that legal, perhaps not in spirit but within the law it does. The police cannot take the child out of the situation because it is legal for them, they cannot question them under suspicion, and they may not be able to even charge their abuser, pimp or john!
It takes a lot of work to get a child out of abuse situations already and this law can be used to act that the child knew what they were doing and that then a pimp is not placing them in any legal danger, leading to less sentencing for people who run prostitution rings. Especially if those people who run it are under eighteen years of age because just like gangs using younger members I am sure prostitution rings will use younger people to run the activities to they are not arrested.
There is also the issue of the abusers called “johns or clients” that might not even be arrested. The whole point of the bill was to place more blame on them and not the potential victims of prostitution. This law, making it illegal for children to be arrested for prostitution means the johns cannot be charged for soliciting sex, on statutory rape. This is not good for a state like California that holds the three-year rule for statutory rape, as well as listing rape under non-violent acts. California does not have the same severe sentencing for rape after listing it as a nonviolent act, leaving less of a reason to avoid jail by not committing rape. There is also a three-year rule for statutory rape that many states also use. The idea if the person having sex with a minor is within three years of the minor’s age the case of statutory rape does not have to be filed or pursued.
California especially has to be careful with our children after all the issues with underage sex crimes. I hope that we can be aware to the implications that are bills will actually have, rather than what we want them to mean. It could mean a world of a difference for a child in need.