Human Trafficking Bills in Hawaii State Legislature

human trafficking

By: J. S.

Combatting human trafficking in Hawaii is the focus of several bills currently in the Hawaii state legislature. Lawmakers are proposing a bill to provide statewide coordinated services to victims of human trafficking, rescind the commercial vehicle license of any individual convicted of a felony for human trafficking crimes, and make the sale of childlike sex dolls a felony offense.

Senate bill 543 would establish a statewide coordinator and program within the department of the Attorney General to provide services and assistance to sexually exploited children and victims of human trafficking.

The thought behind the bill is that in order to adequately serve children who have been sexually exploited, a statewide coordinator and program are needed to develop and utilize comprehensive interagency case management strategies, protocols, and a multidisciplinary response that is both victim-centered and offender-focused. The bill was introduced by Senator Karl Rhoads of District 13.

In  recent testimony supporting the bill, the Senate Committee on Human Services  stated the importance of the proposed programs, as the committee has seen commercial sexual exploitation of Hawaii’s children become more prevalent in the Family Court. The committee also supports implementing a dedicated statewide coordinator and allowing for a comprehensive plan for public awareness and training, which are just some of the many features of the proposed bill.

Since passing the second Senate reading in February, the bill has stayed with the Senate Committees on Judiciary and Ways and Means.

Next is Senate Bill 764 which adds a permanent commercial driver’s license disqualification for a commercial driver’s license or commercial learner’s permit holder who is convicted of a felony involving severe forms of trafficking in persons, without the possibility of reinstatement. 

This bill would bring Hawaii into compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations amended in 2019 that banned any person from holding a commercial vehicle license if they had been convicted of a felony involving “severe forms of sex trafficking”. The federal amendment requires all states to come into substantial compliance within three years of the changes, or face penalties. 

Like all other states, Hawaii requires a CDL in order to drive commercial trucks. One motivation to enact this bill appears to be the need to meet the federal compliance mandates put in place by federal law, requiring all states must meet compliance standards within three years. The Hawaii State Department of Transportation made a case for enacting this bill in their testimony, underlining that the state will face ongoing monetary fees for failing to comply with federal regulations.

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary (JDC) also strongly supports the measure, stating that the committee “supports all measures that work toward the elimination of human slavery.”

Additional support of the bill was submitted by the Hawaii Transportation Association, stating that the association works with commercial truck drivers to spot human trafficking and help report it, and supports both federal and state efforts to combat ongoing crimes. The bill was enrolled to Governor Ige on April 29.

Senate Bill 834 relates to the sale of childlike sex dolls. The bill makes it a misdemeanor to possess or sell one doll and increases the charges all the way up to a class B felony to possess or sell five or more. Florida and Tennessee paved the way by enacting laws that make the possession or sale of these lifelike dolls criminal, followed by Georgia and New Jersey as recently as 2020.

The Department of the Prosecuting Attorney made the statement that the department strongly believes the availability of childlike sex dolls for purchase directly encourages the exploitation, objectification, abuse and sexual assault of minors.

The bill also mentioned a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine paraphilia researcher who concluded that contact with a childlike sex doll is likely to reinforce pedophilic thoughts and cause those thoughts to be acted upon with greater urgency. The bill is headed towards becoming law and was enrolled to the governor on April 29.

Staying alert to local legislation is a powerful way to stay involved in decision making that directly impacts our Hawaii communities. Stay up to date with local legislation, find your state and county representatives, and submit testimony for bills of interest by visiting capitol.hawaii.gov.