Activist calls for stand-alone Ohio law against human trafficking


Mark Lagon head of the Polaris Project speaks at the human trafficking conference today.

The head of a major international group fighting human trafficking says Ohio stands at a “tipping point” in recognizing the problem and tightening laws and to deal with it.

Mark Lagon, head of the Polaris Project, a former U.S. ambassador and human rights expert under Secretary of State Colin Powell, said at a human trafficking conference today at the Statehouse that federal and Ohio law enforcement officials are making a “high-level commitment” to attack the problem.

Federal officials estimate that up to 17,500 women and girls are trafficked for sex in the U.S. each year. Another 300,000, many of them girls as young as 11, are considered vulnerable.

Lagon recommended that Ohio law be changed to make human trafficking a standalone crime, not simply an add-on to other charges as it is now. He said the law should have a broader definition of trafficking that includes forced labor in addition to coerced sexual activity.

In addition, Ohio and other states need to provide more assistance to trafficking victims, particularly juveniles.

“We don’t have a place to put these prostituted teens when we find them,” Lagon said. Too often, they are viewed as criminal to be locked rather than victims to be helped, he said.

State Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, who organized the conference, said she plans to introduce legislation within the next few weeks that incorporates many of the recommendations from Lagon and other trafficking experts.

Steven M. Dettlebach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said getting at the problem depends on “the beginning of an awakening in our country and a recognition that human trafficking can only happen if we let it happen and look the other way.”

source: http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/01/11/human-trafficking.html?sid=101

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