TERRE HAUTE — Focusing on the demand side of human trafficking and the men who buy sex may be the best way to combat human trafficking, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said during a recent stop here.
Sex is an uncomfortable topic for many people, Zoeller admitted, but he said the public should know that many adult prostitutes got their starts in the sex trade by being trafficked as juveniles.
“If you learn the story of the prostitutes, most were prostituted before the age of consent,” Zoeller said while talking about Senate Enrolled Act 509. “You will find that many are victims of human trafficking one way or another.”
Zoeller applauded the efforts of State Sen. John Waterman, R-Shelburn, who authored Senate Enrolled Act 509, this year’s bill that closed a potential loophole in last year’s new human trafficking law.
Zoeller also commended State Rep. Bob Heaton for his work during the legislature’s 2013 long session, noting that many of the bipartisan issues in the Statehouse received the attention they deserved to protect the public.
As co-chair of the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans task force, Zoeller had urged legislators — prior to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis in 2012 — to enact a state law to combat criminals who trafficked women and children for prostitution. The Legislature passed that bill in time for the Super Bowl, but there was an age-limit loophole.
Zoeller this year recommended SEA 509, which revises the statute to say that
16- and 17-year-olds can be victims of illegal child trafficking. That removes a potential legal defense for criminal traffickers. The bill passed without opposition in the state Senate and Indiana House, and Gov. Mike Pence signed SEA 509 into law on April 12.
“Our efforts to combat human trafficking didn’t end with the Super Bowl, and to deter demand we are raising awareness that prostitution is not a ‘victimless crime.’ Thanks to the new law Sen. Waterman and other legislators passed, Indiana is even tougher on traffickers,” Zoeller said.