by Amanda Kloer
Everyone’s favorite “hotbed of moral turpitude” city is back in the news again, though this time not because of discussions around legalizing prostitution in the city. On the contrary, this time Sin City is cracking down on child prostitution. According to U.S. law, any person under 18 involved in any form of commercial sex (prostitution, stripping, pornography, etc.) is a victim of human trafficking; anyone who sells that child (i.e., a pimp) is a trafficker. And Vegas’s new law, will be one of the toughest in the country against child traffickers.
The law specifically goes after pimps’ and traffickers’ money, which is the one thing most of them actually care about, the one thing that it would hurt them to lose. If you’re a pimp selling a child under 14, Las Vegas can take up to $500,000 from you; if you sell kids 14-17, they can take up to $100,000. This legislative change comes after a 2007 study from Shared Hope International found 400 child trafficking victims being exploited in Las Vegas in a single month. Do the math- Las Vegas is looking at almost 5000 prostituted children a year, which could net the city millions if their pimps are nabbed. Looks like for those pimps, what happens in Vegas will stay in the local government’s bank account.
On a related-but-different-note, I’ve been disappointed by a lot of the media coverage of this law, specifically because the language they use includes phrases like “child prostitutes” and “children working in prostitution”. Unlike adult women, children cannot legally choose to “work” in prostituion because they cannot legally consent to sex. Therefore, to refer to a child as a “child prostitute” or the exploitation that is happening to these children as “work” is a misnomer and does not identify the child as a legal victim. Whenever possible, I try and use phrases such as “children in prostitution” or “child trafficking/exploitation victims”, which are more accurate.
Despite the issue of imprecise language, I hope this law makes it a lot harder out there to be a pimp who exploits young kids.