Under a bill passed on June 13 by the New York State Senate, anyone over the age of 21 who promotes or profits from the prostitution of minors will be charged with sex trafficking and face 25 years in prison.
The bill is now on the desk of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and will go into effect if he signs it.
“Human trafficking is a scourge that continues to plague our communities,” New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement. “Today’s legislation will help make sure that those who exploit children in this heinous way are brought to justice.”
The bill will close a loophole that allowed child sex traffickers in New York to get off the hook for their crimes.
According to the New York Post, under current New York laws, if prosecutors want to convict someone on child trafficking, they need to prove that the minors were forced or coerced into prostitution. This means that if the children did not testify or weren’t able to testify, the traffickers could get away with few repercussions.
Assembly member Pamela Hunter said in the statement that “Human trafficking is a hidden crime, and often, the victims are hidden and transported in plain sight.”
The bill has been in the assembly committee for years, according to New York Post, and was previously blocked over concerns that its tough rules could lead to victims being prosecuted if they helped recruit more girls, or landlords could be charged if a pimp operates on their property.
Several other bills recently passed in the United States take an equally harsh stance on the trafficking of women and children, including the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) which has similar provisions to the New York bill that make it easier to hold those behind the abuses accountable.