U.S. lawmakers have introduced a bill to strengthen federal laws against child sex trafficking, a proposal that has broad bipartisan support and will be considered after members of Congress return from an August recess.
Earlier this week, the FBI announced the rescue of more than 100 sexually exploited children as a result of a nationwide sweep of sex traffickers. The FBI said the operation yielded 150 arrests, primarily of pimps — those who profit from the illegal enterprise.
Members of Congress say arresting and prosecuting pimps is not enough, that those who pay to have sex with children must also face federal penalties.
"We have a Trafficking Victims Protection Act that prosecutes the trafficker — the guy that brings those girls throughout the United States. But the consumer, the buyer, is not prosecuted on the federal level," said Republican Congressman Ted Poe during a news conference at the Capitol.
The End Sex Trafficking Act of 2013 mandates that those who seek sex with children will be prosecuted under federal law, which comes into play when there is trafficking activity across more than one state.
"Soliciting or obtaining sex with minors, paying to have sex with a child, is a crime — period, end of story," said Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a sponsor of the bill. "This is a monumentally important bill that will do more to curb this terrible crime of [sexual] slavery in the 21st Century."
The bill also has bipartisan backing in the Senate. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said she hopes it will get unanimous votes in both houses of Congress and be signed into law later this year.