Dozens of activists met directly with Hawaii’s state legislators today to build support for six new state bills that would help identify, protect, and offer assistance to victims of human trafficking. At a press conference highlighting the day’s events, several legislators, including Representative Karen Awana and Representative John Mizuno expressed their support for aggressive efforts to support victims of human trafficking and prosecute traffickers. Polaris Project, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery and the International Justice Mission organized the day’s events.
“Human trafficking takes place throughout the world and affects millions,” said Representative Karen Awana. “Unfortunately, our island state has also fallen prey to such atrocities. Bills that have been introduced this session take an aggressive approach at addressing slavery – the worst form of treatment inflicted upon another human being.”
The new bills that are currently pending in the legislature would make it easier for survivors of sex trafficking to rebuild their lives and protect trafficking victims from convictions for crimes they committed as a result of being trafficked. The bills also improve coordination of services for trafficking survivors, increase training and awareness activities in local schools, and require posting of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline in critical locations like airports and clinics in order to reach victims and raise awareness.
“I have seen first-hand how laws like these make a real difference for the lives of women and children who have been brutally exploited for the profit of others,” said James Dold, Policy Counsel for Polaris Project. “If all of these bills pass, Hawaii would have one of the strongest anti-human trafficking frameworks in the United States.”
Last August, Polaris Project gave Hawaii only four points out of a possible ten in its annual State Ratings Map. The map tracks the presence or absence of 10 categories of laws on the books that are critical to a comprehensive anti-trafficking legal framework.
Because of the hidden nature of human trafficking, few statistics are available on the numbers of trafficking victims in Hawaii or the entire United States. One study has estimated that some 300,000 youth are at-risk of becoming victims of trafficking nationwide. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, which helps connect trafficking victims to services, has taken 164 calls related to human trafficking in Hawaii since December 2007.
“We have a responsibility to come together as a community to support trafficking victims and fight this crime and human rights abuse,” said Kathryn Xian, Executive Director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. “People think that human trafficking only happens in other countries, but it’s also happening here on our islands. Today, we are taking a stand and saying that we can and should do more to fight modern slavery.”
To report a tip, connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, or request information, call The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, operated by Polaris Project, at: 1-888-373-7888. Or go to www.polarisproject.org.
Filed under: aloha, Announcements, Community, Hawaii, Kids, Legal, Legislature, Missing, National Affairs, Rumors, Security, State Affairs Tagged: | Human trafficking, International Justice Mission, National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, Polaris Project