The Legislature killed a piece of human trafficking legislation yesterday. Senate Bill 95 sought to make buying sex prosecutable under human trafficking statutes. That would raise the penalty for johns rise from Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 4 or Class 3 felony.
As reported on SDPB, District 30 Rep. Tim Johns (I am trying to keep a straight face, but some days the blog writes itself) opposed this legislation, saying that it didn’t seem right to bump the penalty for johns from one year in prison to twenty-five when they might have no idea that the prostitutes they solicit are human slaves rather than willing prostitutes.
Um… haven’t we already decided that prostitution is wrong, regardless of how many parties are willing participants? Are we really going to throttle back our efforts against human trafficking by giving men who buy sex a break because they didn’t ask whether their purchase was made possible by slave traders?
Rep. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) argued for SB 95, saying that stiffer penalties will help cut human trafficking off on the demand side
The Legislature, remarkably, preferred Rep. Johns’s logic to Hickey’s. But the proper response to men who buy sex is not to give them a lower penalty for creating the demand for an illegal activity. The proper response is to say, “Don’t buy sex.”