In a Thursday afternoon hearing of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Senator Susan Lee (District 16 – Montgomery County) detailed her proposed legislation (Senate Bill 688) to stop the prosecution of minor children for prostitution and requires the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention to select regional advocates to provide services for children who are victims of sex trafficking.
Currently children are eligible to be prosecuted for crimes of which they had no choice in committing as Maryland law now allows minors in the state to be tried for sex crimes even if they have not reached the state age of consent. Citing that fact, Senator Lee noted that any sex worker under the age of 18 is a victim and they should be treated as such. “This (bill) protects victims of crime and abuse,” she stated. She concluded: “We should treat children as children and victims as victims.”
“Maryland children are being charged with their own sexual assault,” said Amanda Rodriguez who serves as Chief Counsel for Policy and Legal Advocacy for the University of Maryland Safe Center for Human Trafficking Survivors. “We need to stop asking what is wrong with this child, and start asking how can we help,” Rodriguez followed.
Joining Senator Lee in her sponsorship of the legislation are four additional Senate co-sponsors including Senators Carter (District 41 – Baltimore City), Feldman (District 15 – Montgomery County), Guzzone (District 13 – Howard County), and Young (District 3 – Frederick County).
The legislation is identically cross-filed in the House of Delegates with House Bill 827 and sponsored by Delegate Brooke Lierman (District 46 – Baltimore City). House Bill 827 was heard before the House Judiciary Committee on February 21st and awaits a vote from the committee.
Having now also been heard in its committee of origin, Senate Bill 688 awaits a vote of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. All legislation must successfully pass both the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates by Sine Die on Monday, April 8th to be sent to Governor Hogan to be approved or vetoed.