ATLANTA — Georgia’s 2019 General Assembly convened on Monday, with proposals to strengthen the state’s human trafficking laws as one of the items on their agenda. With Super Bowl LIII set for Feb. 3, 2019, the topic of child sex trafficking is gaining increased attention, including among lawmakers. One organization devoted to ending the international plague said the state needs to punish those people and businesses who profit from the crime.
“We need to focus on holding those accountable who benefit from human trafficking from a financial standpoint, both criminally and civilly,” said Camila Zolfaghari, vice president of policy at Street Grace, an Atlanta-based organization that, each year, reaches nearly 60,000 youth under age 18 with a comprehensive curriculum and trainings covering many topics that parents, schools and youth groups do not generally feel comfortable discussing. “That is one of Georgia’s biggest loopholes in its human trafficking laws.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Human trafficking is not the same as human smuggling, which involves illegal transportation of a person across a border.
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Zolfaghari pointed to the Cobb County DA’s office effort to prosecute a hotel that allegedly was profiting from human trafficking. In a story first reported by Patch, Cobb’s DA has reached a court-approved agreement requiring the operator of a Cobb hotel known for frequent drug arrests and suspected sex trafficking to make changes or risk losing the property to forfeiture.
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“Cobb’s DA has done an amazing job, because it’s very difficult to bring that type of case,” said Zolfaghari. “What we see is there are a few bad-acting hotels out there that help perpetrate these crimes.”
Other businesses that also profit from human trafficking include convenience stores. Zolfaghari said pimps often arrange for stores to hold a girl’s money between her appointments and then taking a cut from the profits.
In 2018, Street Grace reached over 12,000 Georgians through awareness events surrounding commercial exploitation of children. Street Grace also trains more than 2,000 ministry and youth leaders annually to identify and prevent sex slavery.
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Victims of human trafficking are of all genders, ages, races, countries, socioeconomic statuses, and so on. While human trafficking can happen to anyone, people who are already in vulnerable situations – such as people experiencing homelessness – may be more likely to be targeted.
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The different kinds of human trafficking include sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude. Sex trafficking victims may be forced, threatened, or manipulated by promises of love or affection to engage in sex acts for money. Any person under the age of 18 involved in a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking.
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