This afternoon at a ceremony at Dulles Airport, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed three new pieces of legislation to combat human trafficking and to help victims.
McDonnell also signed a proclamation making January 11 the day for an annual observance to raise awareness of human trafficking.
"Unfortunately, the subjugation of human beings who are forced against their will into labor or worse, into the sex trade, is not something relegated to the history books or to underdeveloped third-world counties," McDonnell said.
The General Assembly passed three new pieces of legislation to make it harder for criminals to operate in Virginia, and to make additional services available to victims of the sex trade or labor trafficking.
The new legislation expands the definition of human trafficking to include all persons who are trafficked, not just minors under 16, who were the only victims covered by law before today.
"Together, with the proper awareness and action, we can fight to end modern-day slavery in our lifetime," said Sara Pomeroy, Founder of the Richmond Justice Initiative and member of the Virginia Coalition Against Human Trafficking. "Today is significant in many ways because it is sending a message to traffickers and those who enslave others that Virginia is open for honest, legal businesses, but closed for slavery."
The three new laws McDonnell signed today include: SB1453, which requires Department of Criminal Justice services to advise law enforcement agencies on human trafficking issues; HB1893 to make abduction of a minor for the purpose of the manufacture of child pornography or prostitution a Class 2 felony; and HB2190, which requires the Department of Social Services to develop a service plan for victims of human trafficking.
"More than 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, and although estimates vary widely, between 4 million and 27 million people are said to be trapped in modern-day slavery across the world," McDonnell said.
Virginia ranks in the top-10 states for human trafficking, according to records of report calls received in the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's call center between December 2007 and December 2010.
Having an international airport and the proximity to the nation's capital might be contributing factors in Virginia's prominence in human trafficking, the governor said.