Critical Safe Harbor Legislation to Protect Children in New York State Passed!
End Trafficking began advocating around state-level legislation this year, starting in New York, one of the most progressive states when it comes to combatting human trafficking. In 2008, New York was the first state to pass what is known as a Safe Harbor Law. These laws ensure that children involved in prostitution are not treated as criminals, but as victims who deserve services and not jail time. This is in line with UNICEF’s worldwide efforts to make certain that children victimized by commercial sexual exploitation are not re-victimized by the justice system. New York State’s passage of this law has sparked interest and advocacy in many other states.
That being said, the 2008 law was not perfect. To fill the gaps, the 110 organizations of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition — which we are honored to be a part of — led an effort to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA). Champions such as Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Senator Andrew Lanza sponsored this legislation, educating their colleagues about its importance and the prevalence of human trafficking in our own state. We partnered with groups like the Junior Leagues and leaders such as Emily Amick, of Sanctuary for Families, to lobby for this legislation. Media campaigns drew attention to the legislation, trafficking survivors influenced advocates and legislators, and citizens from all over the state, including our volunteers, called, wrote and visited their representatives to show their support.
After months of tireless work by thousands around New York, a partial but important victory was achieved. This June, the New York Legislature passed a bill extending the Safe Harbor Law to 16- and 17-year-olds (previously only victims aged 15 and under were covered). To be sure, the passage of this new provision is a reason to celebrate, but the work doesn’t stop here. The implementation and enforcement of new laws is perhaps one of the biggest struggles we face. It’s not enough to have the law on the books; we have to strengthen systems and work together to make sure that traffickers are held accountable and victims are able to access the services they need. And the TVPJA remains to be passed, hopefully during New York’s next legislative term. Each day, we are working toward a world where ZERO children are exploited.
End Trafficking would like to thank all those who raised their voices to help us work toward the day when ZERO children are trafficked!