Yesterday, 145 years after the 13th amendment outlawing slavery was signed in Washington, D.C., the District of Columbia passed legislation criminalizing human trafficking. It was the culmination of a four year struggle to get the U.S. capital to officially outlaw modern-day slavery and provide crucial resources to combat what is one of the most significant human trafficking problems in the country.
You can read the full text of the bill here. But the gist is that the D.C. law works much like other state anti-trafficking laws, criminalizing labor and sex trafficking at a local level. One of my favorite parts of this bill is that it provides severe penalties for anyone who knowingly benefits from the crime of trafficking, not just active participants. Theoretically, this means that, for example, a strip club owner who knowingly hires children or trafficked women could be convicted under this new law. Talk about a business incentive. The bill also provides resources for victims, access to a victim advocate and safety plan, and a private right of action for victims to sue their traffickers. This bill marks a huge step towards reducing human trafficking in D.C. and assisting people who have been trafficked.
Even though the bill passed the full D.C. Council, the mayor has 10 days to sign or veto the bill (since the District of Columbia isn’t a state, there is no governor). You can urge Mayor Fenty to sign the bill here. Then, if approved, the bill must be reviewed by Congress, which has to approve all legislation in D.C.
Congratulations to all of the people and organizations who worked so hard to have anti-human trafficking legislation in the nation’s capitol. Hopefully, this new bill will help prevent and address the rampant human trafficking in Washington D.C.