More than half a dozen bills protecting child victims of sex trafficking were signed into law on Monday by California Governor Jerry Brown, including one that ensures minors cannot be criminally charged with prostitution.
In addition, the new law will allow the police to take into protective custody any person under the age of 18 who is believed to be engaged in prostitution.
In a press release following the Governor’s signing, State Senator Holly Mitchell commended Governor Brown for declaring, “There is no such thing as a child prostitute.” She continued, “The law is supposed to protect vulnerable children from adult abuse, yet we brand kids enmeshed in sex-for-pay with a scarlet ‘P’ and leave them subject to shame and prosecution. This is our opportunity to do what we say is right in cases of sex trafficking: stop the exploiters and help the exploited.”
The other bills signed into law on Monday will allow sex trafficking victims under the age of 16 to testify in court via closed-circuit television, as well as prohibit the release of victims’ names or other personal information.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that of the 11,800 runaways reported in 2015, 1 in 5 were victims of sex trafficking. According to the Polaris Project, as of 2015, only 34 states had laws that provide immunity to children who engage in prostitution.