Survivors of human trafficking are divided on two bills in the legislature.
“I am a survivor of childhood sex trafficking,” said Gabrielle Monroe of Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars. She spoke out this week against Senate Bill 540, which is designed to stop human trafficking. “I also was arrested in 2004 on the charges of prostitution.”
Monroe is worried about a proposed “johns registry” that would track anyone who gets another to commit prostitution or lewdness. It’s a provision included in the Senate version of the bill but not the House’s.
“What’s going to happen is the good clients that we have are going to stop being clients and we’re still going to need to eat and we’re still going to need to make money and we’re going to make riskier decisions with the people who are already abusing us,” Monroe says. “I had a friend who died because she could not last fall because she could not report to the police.”
But not every survivor of human trafficking has the same perspective. Savanna Parvu is a survivor advocating for the same bill that Monroe opposes.
“When I was twelve, I started being sold out of hotels in Central Florida,” Parvu said during Senate hearing.
If passed, lodging and massage establishments would have to go through additional training to identify when sex trafficking is happening.
“If we had a bill like this when I was being trafficked, I feel like I wouldn’t have been trafficked as long as I was,” said Parvu.
But SWOP Behind Bar’s Christine Caine said that while additional training is good, the registry that would be created if the Senate gets its way hints at something more sinister.
“This would force already at-risk communities even further into the shadows, subjecting them to more violence. The language of this bill focuses on the clients and sex workers as a whole rather than on the predators of minors and vulnerable individuals. Sex trafficking and consensual adult sex work are not one in the same,” said Caine.
Both bills would create an organization to assist the Council on Human Trafficking. While the House Bill has been successful—going onto a third reading—The Senate version is in limbo.
For a bill to pass, both House and Senate versions need to be approved. Time is running out for the Senate version to be heard again. The Senate Appropriations Committee is done meeting for the legislative session.
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