Human trafficking has been high on the legislative agenda of the Junior Leagues of the State of New York State Public Affairs Committee since 2006, when NYSPAC members urged members of the New York State Assembly and Senate to enact a strong, comprehensive state law that recognizes human trafficking, both of forced labor and sexual exploitation, as a crime, punishes traffickers and establishes services for victims. In 2007, the New York State Anti-Trafficking Law was enacted to do exactly that.

Then NYSPAC advocated for legislation to ensure that sexually exploited youth would be treated as child victims and be offered services that could pave the way for better outcomes. The signing into law of the New York State Safe Harbour for Exploited Children Act in 2008 was a pivotal moment in protecting and securing services for sexually exploited youth in the state. (One noteworthy result of the passage of the Safe Harbour Act was state funding for initiatives like the Gateways Program for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children, an intensive residential program for girls that was the subject of this recent Wall Street Journal article.)

And that’s not all that’s been done – and is being done – by the New York Junior Leagues acting together to influence state law on this critical issue.

In 2015, the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA) enhanced protection for sex trafficking victims and increased accountability for pimps and buyers. That action followed strong advocacy by NYSPAC in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 legislative sessions. The bill also looks to close any gaps and loopholes from the 2007 Anti-Trafficking Law and the 2008 Safe Harbour Act.