Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Georgia On My Mind ... and Out of Its
The state legislature in Georgia is considering what to do about child prostitution:
The bill introduced by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), would steer girls under the age of 16 into diversionary programs instead of arresting them as prostitutes.
"This bill makes sure people are aware that young girls are victims," Unterman said. "A 12-year-old laying on her back don't know what sex is."
Unterman – who has championed the rights of young girls – said the bill has been around for at least two years. She said she revisited it because a plan is now in place to rehabilitate the young prostitutes. The age of consent in Georgia is 16.
Unterman said her bill would help create a system of care for the girls while educating the public and those who come in contact with the young girls. It would impact girls getting pimped out on the streets, as well as girls working in massage parlors.
"I don't think that children who are raped for profit should be prosecuted as criminals," said Elizabeth LeDuc, a pediatrician, who supports the bill. "We need to make sure kids under 16 will not be tried as prostitutes. Children sent to jail for prostitution are more likely to go back into the streets."
In Atlanta, trafficking and prostitution has emerged into a major problem. In 2002, for example, the FBI broke up a ring of 14 men pimping girls as young as 10.
"Decriminalizing that means the police would have absolutely no interest in it at all," said Sue Ella Deadwyler, who writes a Christian conservative newsletter. "They wouldn't arrest the girls, they wouldn't pick the girls up, they wouldn't protect them from influence on the street from the pimps and the johns. It would be an absolute cultural upheaval in our state. Never in the United States, as far as I known, has juvenile prostitution been legalized."
Deadwyler, said that she, and those who don't support the bill, believes that arrest is a better deterrent than a proposal for rehabilitation – no matter the age.
"Sure there are those who are forced into prostitution, but I think most of them volunteer," Deadwyler said of under 16-year-old prostitutes. "Many, many children have been scared straight because of arrest."
And I'm sure they think they're being perfectly nice and decent and caring and all that. My Christian best friend often says too much prayer rots the brain. He's all too right.