Imagine for a second that your boss comes into work one day, calls a meeting with you and your coworkers, and says the following: You must register with the state, in order to keep your job. You need to provide a photo, disclose your criminal record (should you have one), victim status, phone number, age, home address, and other personal details — all of which will then be stored in online database, where state employees can potentially access it, not to mention hackers. All this, you’re told, is for your own protection.
You'd freak out, right?
This is essentially what conservative lawmakers in Pennsylvania are attempting to do with a new bill
targeting employees and contract workers of “adult-oriented” establishments including strip clubs, adult book stores, and adult movie theatres. Proponents of the bill, which is primarily sponsored by State Rep. Matthew Baker
(R-Tioga) and backed by the Pennsylvania Family Institute
, a Christian organization which aims to restore “traditional, foundational principles and values” to public life, say that the bill is intended to prevent sex trafficking and abuse.
Combatting sex trafficking
is certainly a worthy endeavor, and while Pennsylvania might not strike you as a hotbed of sex crime, it’s not immune. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center
(NHTRC), there have been 17 reported cases of sex trafficking in Pennsylvania this year, and there were 76 sex trafficking cases and five combined sex-and-labor trafficking in the state last year — with the vast majority of the victims women. Out of the roughly 20,000 calls made to the NHTRC’s hotline last year, 527 came from Pennsylvania
, making it the twelfth most called from state in the country. “We don’t want to believe it because we want these places to be innocent,” Brian McGinley, director of strategic initiatives for the Pennsylvania Family Institute, told Watchdog.org
. “…That’s kind of the polite fiction that we tell ourselves.”
But is that actually true? Yes, the Department of Health and Human Services identifies strip clubs as venues where sex trafficking could take place, stating, “victims may start off dancing or stripping in clubs and then be coerced into situations of prostitution and pornography.” But only two percent of calls made to the NHTRC were in relation to potential trafficking at a club. Hotels and motels, commercial-front brothels, online advertisements, and street-based trafficking were much more likely avenues for traffickers to exploit their victims.