The Christian Right’s Misguided Fight Against Child Prostitution
Currently up for debate in the Senate of my home state of Georgia is a bill that would mandate the minimum age to be charged with the crime of prostitution at 16 (the House version of the bill would set the age at 18). Essentially, the bill would change the law to mean that if a child under the age of 16 is found by the police to be engaged in prostitution, that child cannot be charged with prostitution–instead, the child is diverted to therapy and other rehabilitative measures.
Shockingly, conservative Christian groups in the state are outraged. They say that this bill amounts to the legalization of child prostitution and that if the bill is passed, the state of Georgia will become a haven for pimps. These groups have even come out with a video bemoaning the horrors of the bill.
Mind you, this bill has absolutely nothing to do with the criminality of a pimp’s or john’s acts in child prostitution. This bill in no way decriminalizes the actions of a human trafficker. The bill simply keeps a 12-year old girl that has been forced into a life of sex slavery from being thrown into juvenile detention and given a police record while also mandating that she be provided the appropriate therapy, counseling, or other treatment. How horrible. What monster could want to change the law in such a way?
Yet many Christian groups in the state have come out against the bill and are viciously demonizing the bill’s author. Among those throwing their weight behind attempts to defeat the bill are the Georgia Christian Alliance, the Georgia Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, and the Georgia Baptist Convention. One of the more appalling arguments made in opposition of the bill was brought by the author of a popular Christian newsletter: “The threat of arrest, public humiliation and a police record has scared straight many minors and adults.” So threatening arrest and public humiliation is supposed to deter a child from engaging in prostitution? And what better way to rehabilitate a victim of human trafficking than by handcuffing them and giving them a police record?
Nevermind the fact that most of the boys and girls who end up in prostitution are sold/forced against their will into sex slavery. Do you really believe that a 12-year old girl chooses to be a prostitute? Really?
Further, in the state of Georgia, the minimum age of consensual sex is 16 (i.e., a 15-year old girl is not legally permitted to choose to have sex with her boyfriend). Yet, under current law, that same 15-year old girl can choose to have sex for money and be charged with a crime. That is illogical, to say the least. This bill will simply bring a measure of logical and moral consistency to the law, while not punishing the youngest victims of human trafficking. These children are, after all, victims. A 13-year old girl that has been sold to a pimp is not a criminal… she is a victim. Yet why is it that the main voices crying out for that girl to be labeled a criminal are coming from the Christian Right? I honestly just don’t get it.
If you live in the state of Georgia, please, please contact your legislators and encourage them to vote for this bill.