By BECKY McKENDRY
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan law may soon come closer to mirroring federal law when dealing with minors engaged in prostitution, but not close enough for some anti-human trafficking advocates.
A new House bill would presume that any 16- or 17-year-old working in prostitution was “coerced into child sexually abusive activity” and would be offered assistance to avoid prosecution.
The proposal comes as part of a broad, 19-bill initiative to combat human trafficking in Michigan. Other bills in the initiative would create counseling services for trafficking victims, allow trafficking victims to sue their captors for civil damages and more.
This bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Eileen Kowall, R-White Lake, says the proposal would help break the cycle of children caught in the sex trade.
“This bill is a vital piece of this whole effort to fight trafficking,” Kowall said. “These children have to have a safe harbor and be deemed on the outset as victims, not as criminals and prostitutes.”