Hillsborough County Young Democrats support a community proposal asking the Tampa City Council to offer immunity to victims of human trafficking. We additionally suggest a task force to create a support and re-entry system for survivors of trafficking, who often face language and documentation barriers.
The Tampa City Council is considering resurrecting an anti-bathhouse ordinance from the 1980s in order to address human trafficking. The ordinance would ban nudity and sexual activity at spas, would allow Tampa PD to inspect spas 4 times a year, and would require spa operators and employees to take human trafficking and prostitution awareness classes. Unfortunately, this ordinance will make survivors of human trafficking more likely to be arrested. It offers no support to arrested survivors, and it offers no incentive for current victims to report their abuse.
This ordinance is supported by the group “Clean Up Kennedy,” who say the regulation will combat human trafficking. Our community has an obligation to do everything we can to help the victims of modern-day slavery. Yet resurrecting this 1980s ordinance that targeted gay bathhouses will do nothing for those subject to human trafficking.
A coalition of community groups have made a better proposal: victim immunity. The city can offer “…immunity from arrest when reporting crimes of coercion, sexual assault, violence, etc.” This step would show a commitment to helping those who have suffered from human trafficking.
In addition to victim immunity, HCYD propose that the Tampa City Council form a task force to develop support and re-entry measures for survivors of human trafficking. Currently, a survivor of human trafficking who comes forward about involuntary sex work can expect to be jailed, tried, convicted and released. The bathhouse ordinance would change none of that; the ordinance would make it more likely for survivors to be arrested and then sent away with no support. Victim immunity and a re-entry program, however, would show the city’s commitment to addressing human trafficking in a serious way.