16 August 2018

Africa: With New U.S. Law, Trafficked Children No Longer Need to Testify in Court

New York — Measure removes the legal requirement in sex trafficking cases to prove a child victim was forced or coerced into sex

Child sex trafficking victims will no longer be made to testify in court in the United States, after New York adopted a law on Wednesday making it the final state to end the practice.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a measure that removes the legal requirement in sex trafficking cases to prove a child victim was forced or coerced into sex.

"It means the trafficking victim doesn't have to take the stand and testify about the horrific experiences," said Dorchen Leidholdt of Sanctuary for Families, an anti-trafficking group.

The move brings New York in line with U.S. state and federal laws, as well as global norms, experts said.

Under a United Nations measure known as the Palermo Protocol, children do not have to prove they were trafficked, said Romina Canessa, a trafficking expert at the rights group Equality Now.

Elsewhere in the United States, Alabama last month lifted its requirement for coercion or deception to be proven in cases of child sex trafficking. Its new law took effect in July, according to a spokeswoman for the state's attorney general.

In New York, the move faced resistance from some legislators who were initially reluctant to increase criminal penalties, Canessa told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"It took a little bit of convincing, and just making state legislators realize that there is a reason why federal and international law, and the majority of other states, don't require proof of coercion for minors," she said.

"This is an issue of rape of children."

Each year, some 100,000 to 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. (Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Jared Ferrie

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