Last year, Georgia Senate Bill 304 was proposed. Its purpose was to decriminalize prostitution for people under the age of 16. That happens to be the age of consent. As a libertarian, many people assume I want wholesale legalization of prostitution, so they aren’t surprised that I supported SB 304. What they’ve missed is why.
Some time ago, I watched a documentary called Very Young Girls. It was about prostitution among underage girls in New York City and a woman who worked to get them off the streets. It was through that documentary that I learned of how some of these girls end up hooking for a living.
For those who don’t know, the process usually starts with an older man showing romantic interest in an underage girl. He wines her and dines her, buys her nice clothes and jewelry. Perhaps he introduces her to narcotics and gets her addicted. He treats her like a queen. Then, one day he tells her that if she loves him, she’ll stand on a street corner and earn him some money.
These men, the pimps, are master manipulators. They have conditioned these girls to believe that they are loved by these men. They are conditioned to believe that prostitution is fine since it’s for a man that cares so deeply for them. They condition them to believe they won’t survive without the pimp.
Quite often, these girls get arrested for solicitation of prostitution. They are put up before a judge and convicted of a crime. The pimps, the true perpetrators who manipulated children to prostitute themselves, generally walk. Now, these girls have a criminal record.
Once they finish their sentence, they are back out on the streets where their pimps can continue their heinous work. These men are disgusting in every way, and they are the toughest to catch, put on trial, and convict.
Georgia Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford proposed SB 304 last year. It met a great deal of criticism from Christian groups. What these groups missed was that the girls Unterman’s bill sought to decriminalize aren’t the perpetrators of the real crime, but the victims. SB 304 didn’t decriminalize prostitution, but only protected these girls from a criminal record. The pimps and johns were still fair game for police and prosecutors. Unterman said it was her hope that the girls be placed in a therapy program instead of jail. That’s not a bad idea considering the psychological effects of forced prostitution.
The truth is that human trafficking for the sex trade is far more common in Georgia than we would like to believe. An estimated 28,000 men engage children in prostitution each year. Some don’t realize the girl in question is underage. Others clearly do.
This year, HB 200 was introduced. It would stiffen the penalties for trafficking young girls in Georgia. We need that, in addition to a current version of SB 304. These girls shouldn’t be punished for their manipulations at the hand of older and wiser people. They will have problems for some time, and that’s more than these children should bear.
This has nothing to do with the morality of prostitution itself. It has everything to do with young girls who deserve to be protected to the best of our ability. We can’t be everywhere however, so we should also try and be understanding of these victims and help them move on with their lives.
As for the men who perpetrate these acts? Let the law descend upon them like the fiery hand of God. Whatever penalty we levy against them, it won’t be enough in my opinion.
Written by Tom Knighton. Read his blog at TomKnighton.com, as well as SWGAPolitics.com. A lifelong political junkie, Tom started out his adult life as a journalism major at Darton College before leaving school to serve his nation as a U.S. Navy Corpsman. Through the years, he has watched government from outside and inside. A former Reagan supporter, then later a Democrat, Tom now finds himself quite comfortable as a card carrying Libertarian and currently serves as Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Southwest Georgia.