October 3, 2012 — A measure (Proposition 35) on the California ballot this November would rewrite state law to clarify that children coerced into the sex trade are considered victims, not criminals, the Sacramento Bee reports. The initiative also would double or triple current penalties for convicted traffickers in certain cases and generate funds for organizations that support survivors.
Proposition 35 would more closely align California law with federal law, according to the Bee. Under federal law, adult sex workers are deemed trafficking victims if they were forced or coerced, while minors do not have to prove force or coercion occurred.
In addition, the measure would alter California law so that trafficking survivors could not be prosecuted for engaging in sex work, nor could their involvement in the sex trade be used to attack their credibility in court.
The measure also would expand the definition of trafficking to include the creation and sale of child pornography, and it would require convicted traffickers to register as sex offenders.
Supporters of the measure say it is needed to send a stronger message to traffickers and protect survivors from being re-victimized through the criminal justice system.
Opponents say the proposition is too broadly worded and could create more confusion about the definition of "human trafficking." Some defense attorneys and legal experts have raised concern that the measure could hinder legitimate cross examinations of survivors and impede defendants' right to a fair trial (Minugh, Sacramento Bee, 10/2).
Opinion Pieces Comment on Prop. 35
The Bee on Tuesday published two opinion pieces commenting on the proposition. Summaries of the pieces appear below.
~ Stephen Munkelt: "Despite emotionally charged (and unsupported) claims by the proponents, Proposition 35 is completely unnecessary," writes Munkelt, an attorney and criminal law specialist. He adds, "It will, however, drive up costs for police training, supervision of sex offenders and state prison operations." Munkelt states that the initiative is "based on the simplistic notion that we can decrease crime by increasing sentences" (Munkelt, Sacramento Bee, 10/2).
~ Leah Albright-Byrd: "The problem of human trafficking is real, local and urgent," writes Albright-Byrd, a trafficking survivor and executive director of Bridget's Dream, a Sacramento-based organization that supports survivors. "Proposition 35 will take concrete steps to end this plague in our community and our state," she writes, adding that three California cities rank in the worst 13 in the U.S. for child sex trafficking crimes (Albright-Byrd, Sacramento Bee, 10/2).