Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery rallies strong, ready to see anti-trafficking laws pass

Jamie Winpenny

HONOLULU—Members of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS) attended the opening of the 2011 Hawaii Legislature, keen to support anti-human trafficking bills that are part of legislation to be debated this session.

Flanked by dozens of students from two Oahu private schools, PASS carried placards bearing anti-trafficking slogans.

“The kids were awesome,” says PASS’s Kathryn Xian. “The 7th and 8th graders from Assets had the Constitution memorized. They knew every amendment by heart.”

Xian says their group was menaced by Capitol security and told to assemble outside, but PASS cited the First Amendment right of free speech and security backed off.

“They kind of freaked out,” Xian says, smiling. “They let us stay.”

PASS is lobbying for the passage of two bills in particular, one that addresses sex trafficking, and a labor bill that addresses trafficked labor. While prostitution and the commodity of labor are separate social issues, each have been known to use coerced labor.

The sex trafficking bill will be submitted as part of the Legislative Women’s Caucus package. Xian points out that Senator Suzanne Chun-Oakland was pivotal in drafting the bill and getting it included in the caucus package. A twin bill will also be submitted to the House.

Xian is cautiously optimistic at the bills’ chance at passage. A portion of the sex trafficking bill had to be removed at the request of lawmakers last session. That part of the bill involved trafficked labor not involved in prostitution. That concern is now dealt with in the labor bill.

Xian is also optimistic about a new development in the Prosecutor’s Office. She says that Keith Kaneshiro has expressed a willingness to support a law that would criminalize patrons of prostitutes, making the offense a Class C felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The current statute makes the offense only a petty misdemeanor.

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