CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A bill to increase penalties for human traffickers is gaining traction through the statehouse as the legislative session comes to an end.
Senate Bill 194 would increase the penalties placed on the person charged with buying sex, which fuels the demand for sex trafficking.
“It will make mandatory minimums and it will step up fines from $200, which was the maximum and the third lowest in the country to $250 and up to $1,000,” Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force member Casey Austin said. “So, we’re raising the penalties on commercial sex buyers.”
Austin said if the person paying for the crime is eliminated, it can in turn help the victims.
“We’re now taking aim and going after the demand and the people that are purchasing sex and that are creating the demand for the industry,” Austin said.
The bill would also recognize victims of human trafficking and not charge minors with prostitution.
Over the last few years there has been a big push to tackle human trafficking in South Carolina. According to the Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force there were 127 human trafficking cases reported last year in South Carolina.
“We are going to attack the demand you are not going to be purchasing human beings in our state,” Austin said.
Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force Chair Brooke Burris said the bill has made some headway, going from a sitting in a committee for months to the House floor in a matter of days. Burris said if a third reading doesn’t happen on Thursday then it could happen when session starts back up in January.