New laws passed in recent months in Illinois and New Hampshire will help victims of human trafficking begin to mend themselves and get their lives back together.
Many trafficked victims, especially those trafficked for sex, are tattooed with what looks like a barcode, declaring the wearer the property of the criminal who engaged them in the practice.
In Illinois, House Bill 5858, introduced by Illinois State Representative John D. Anthony (R-Morris) and sponsored by Illinois State Senator Michael Connelly (R-Naperville), passed unanimously in both the Illinois House and the Illinois Senate in April and May.
The legislation allows licensed tattoo businesses to remove tattoos from minors who were former gang members and/or victimized by human trafficking or sexual or other servitude. Under the previous law, tattoos artists could not perform work, including tattoo removal, on minors without the presence of a parent or guardian.
Last year Illinois legislators passed Illinois House Bill 2640, sponsored by Illinois State Representative Kelly Burke (D-Evergreen Park) and effective at the beginning of 2014, that allows victims of human trafficking who have been branded by their trafficker to be reimbursed for the cost of the tattoo removal treatments through the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Fund. This fund was originally created to reduce the financial burdens imposed on victims of violent crime and their families.
“Victims of human trafficking have endured unimaginable trials, and they cannot truly break free if they still bear the physical reminders of such a painful experience,” Burke said. “Helping to remove the tattoos that were forced on them, and literally branded them as property, is essential to helping these individuals live with the freedom and dignity they deserve.”
Meanwhile, this year New Hampshire voted in New Hampshire Senate Bill 317, landmark legislation passed unanimously in both the New Hampshire State Senate and the New Hampshire State House, a rare event in The Granite State. This broad-based law increases criminal penalties for the sex trafficking of minors and protects the victims of sex trafficking from criminal prosecution.
As a result of passage of the bill, victims can now sue their trafficker for damages within 20 years of being trafficked. Victims will also now be paid for the removal of such identifying tattoos as barcodes with funds from the New Hampshire Victims Compensation Fund.
New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan signed the bill on July 25, and it will go into effect 90 days after that.
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