HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - If it survives the legislative session, a new measure would change Hawaii's Promoting Prostitution law into a Sex Trafficking law that would be tougher on pimps. Advocates believe it would generate accurate sex trafficking statistics and could save those coerced or forced into Hawaii's sex trade.
"We see there being probably, by our estimate, 20 to 25 children a month that are being trafficked in the state," said Kathryn Xian of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.
She said about 100 more minors a month are at high risk for sex trafficking.
"We think there's an excellent chance that this bill will pass," said Kris Coffield of IMUAlliance.
Besides jail time, the new bill would slap a fine up to $50,000 on pimps guilty of sex trafficking in the first degree. The fine would be up to $25,000 for sex trafficking in the second degree.
"Estimates put the profit that traffickers and pimps make off of their victims in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases per year. They can certainly afford to pay for the services needed to rehabilitate their victims," Coffield said.
State Rep. John Mizuno will introduce the measure as the centerpiece of a package of sex trafficking bills.
"It's a different mindset," Mizuno said. "We're looking at it from a victim's lens, the victim's point of view."
Coffield said there are 125 hostess bars, strip clubs and massage parlors in Hawaii that are fronts for sex trafficking. The bill goes after them too.
"Anytime a business or an individual who is operating a front business for prostitution or for trafficking is convicted of trafficking, they would automatically lose their business licenses," Coffield said.
A sex trafficking law would make it possible to increase penalties on those who buy people for sex. The measure also labels sex trafficking a violent crime, so victims could be compensated.
"We've ignored the growth of this problem," Xian said. "We need to come up to speed with the rest of the nation with regard to addressing this crime for what it is"
Hawaii is one of only two states without a sex trafficking law.