Today, we present to you a guest article written by Paul Suit from DEPDC/GMS’ partner organisation Made By Survivors (MBS). We would like to thank Paul for his dedicated contribution and encourage you to follow the links provided at the bottom of this article to learn more about Made By Survivors.
“My name is Paul Suit and I’m the Director of Asia Programs for Made By Survivors (MBS). Founded in 2005, our mission is to end slavery through economic empowerment and education, giving survivors and people at the highest risk the tools they need to build safe, independent, slavery-free lives.
“A few weeks ago my home state of Maryland passed three pieces of legislation to help prevent human trafficking and give assistance to those that have been victims. In doing so, Maryland has taken the lead in the fight against human trafficking throughout the United States, and many other states are already looking to duplicate Maryland’s success. The most important thing about what Maryland has done, versus other states, is to make an effort to deal with victims in a way that is respectful and compassionate and doesn’t further stigmatize them.
“Dealing with trafficking victims requires a certain level of compassion and understanding that is simply lacking in many institutions, especially law enforcement. These bills work to change that and give people the ability to recognize the signs and educate them on how to help. According to Polaris Project, a Washington DC based NGO that was instrumental in getting the bills passed, the details are as follows: (The first 2 bills were signed into law within 12 hours of being passed and the third, SB 299/HB 345 is expected to be signed into law by May 10th.)
HB 674 – Education – Human Trafficking – Awareness, Training, and Distribution of Materials
Requires the State Department of Education, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to provide awareness and training for Directors of Student Services in local education agencies on human trafficking. This important bill will help educators and school employees to better recognize the signs of human trafficking.
SB 299/HB 345 – Human Trafficking – Investigations
Adds human trafficking to the list of exceptions to the one party consent law to allow wiretapping and electronic surveillance during a human trafficking investigation. Crimes now excluded from the ban on wiretapping include child pornography, rape, and murder, among others.
SB 327/HB 266 – Human Trafficking Victims Support Act
Would require individuals convicted of human trafficking to pay restitution to their victims under certain circumstances and would vacate the judgment of a person involved in prostitution if their involvement resulted from them being a victim of human trafficking.
Despite these successes there were 2 other important pieces of legislation that did not pass that still needs the support of the public.
SB 247 /HB 418 – Asset Forfeiture for Convicted Human Traffickers
Sponsors: Senator Jamie Raskin & Delegate Kathleen Dumais
Status: SB247 passed the senate and was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, where both SB247 and HB418 were never brought up for a vote.
Purpose: Human trafficking is committed for one reason – profit. This legislation provides for the forfeiture of assets derived from or used in connection with human trafficking activity. Proceeds from the assets are directed into the newly created Anti-Human Trafficking Fund, for grants to law enforcement and victim service organizations to respond to human trafficking. In 2010 this bill passed the full Senate unanimously. In the House, more than half of the members cosponsored the bill however, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee refused to bring it to a vote and the bill died in the “drawer.”
HB 1304 Human Trafficking Hotline Posting at Truckstops, Bus Stations and Rest Areas
Sponsor: Delegate Hucker
Status: Passed the House, but was not taken up by the Senate prior to the end of session.
Purpose: Requires rest areas, bus stations and truck stops in Maryland, key locations for sex trafficking crimes, to post the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline so victims may access help and tipsters can report anything they find, confidentially, 24 hours a day.
“These pieces of legislation mark a shift in the fight against trafficking and will hopefully set a precedent that other states, and the federal government, will soon follow.”