Sex-trafficking bills signed | The Garden Island


HONOLULU — Gov. David Ige signed two bills into law from the Women’s Legislative Caucus 2021 legislative package in front of House and Senate leaders of the bipartisan Hawai‘i WLC at the state Capitol last week.

“These measures are important to prevent potential abuses or to assist victims with the transition from a hostile situation, and to increase penalties for those who benefit from exploiting others,” Ige said.

“These bills help to ensure the safety and well being of our friends, neighbors and families who are involved in vulnerable situations, the exploitation of another person is totally unacceptable in our community, and increasing the penalties for such egregious action sends the signal that we will not tolerate it here in our community.”

State Rep. Linda Ichiyama of Moanalua Valley, Salt Lake and Aliamanu and caucus co-convener, said the bills reflect the critical importance of legal protections in Family Court and reducing criminal offenses perpetrated against children.

“Even though this session was shortened due to the pandemic, the Women’s Legislative Caucus continues to introduce and support many bills that affect women, children and families,” Ichiyama said.

Senate Bill 828, now Act 69, grants exclusive jurisdiction in matters of divorce tothe Family Court of the circuit in which an applicant resides at the time the application is filed. The bill also repeals the requirement that a person lives in or be physically present in the state continuously for at least six months before applying for a divorce.

The removal of the six-month residency requirement will increase safety for survivors of domestic violence who are married. Requiring a survivor to stay in a jurisdiction to complete a divorce can increase the risk of harm and jeopardize safety.

SB 834, now Act 67, establishes the offense of importation, sale or possession of one or more childlike sex dolls. Childlike sex dolls, which are designed to look and feel as lifelike as possible, often contribute to the exploitation, objectification, abuse, and sexual assault of minors.

Hawai‘i is a pass-through state for shipments of these dolls from international suppliers to the continental United States. This bill will deter the practice of Hawai‘i from being used as an entry point for childlike sex dolls.

Hawai‘i Attorney General Clare Connors talked about new verbiage that can be found in Bill 887 when communicating to the public regarding sex trafficking.

“So this was a great moment. The language that we have used in this particular bill is significant because we moved away from certain terms that have defined the conversation for a long time. We no longer use the word ‘prostitute,’” Connors said.

“In this legislation, we have gotten rid of it all together, we now use the term ‘commercial sexual exploitation.’ That changes the narrative. It creates a narrative that supports victims. It talks about what survivors are going through.”

Connors said it helps her team not only by talking to the public but to move victims through the justice system differently.

“We support them. We treat them the way they need to be treated so that they can really feel the justice that we’re all trying to work to achieve on their behalf,” Connors said. “So in addition to taking out that language all together, we are using the term ‘commercial sexual expectation’ not just for our misdemeanor crime, but also for a felony crime.

“And I believe the first thing to do is to talk about misdemeanors as commercial sexual exploitation, as opposed to the solicitation or patronization of a minor in particular, for sex.”

According to Connors, another change is holding traffickers strictly liable if they engage in sexual exploitation of a minor.

“That’s really important because it doesn’t matter,” Connors said. “Since we believe minors can’t consent. Whether or not you know that your victim is a minor. It doesn’t matter. It’s not a part of the calculation. We’re strictly liable under the law.”

Bill HB887 creates a separate offense for those who provide anything of value to engage in sexual conduct with another. It specifies that the offense of sex trafficking may be prosecuted at any time, and specifies that sex trafficking includes advancing or profiting from prostitution by certain means, including through coercion.

It also:

• Makes a person strictly liable for sex trafficking of a minor in terms of the victim’s age. Renames offenses involving the solicitation of prostitution to use the more-appropriate term of “commercial sexual exploitation;”

• Amends the elements for the commission of the offense of commercial sexual exploitation of a minor and increases the grade of offense to a class B felony;

• Includes anything of value as a type of compensation for purposes of engaging in prostitution or other offenses involving commercial sexual exploitation.

“I watched the signing of HB887 by Governor David Ige yesterday and learned that community sexual exploitation could lead to a misdemeanor and felony,” said Edie Ignacio Neumiller of the Hawai‘i State Commissioner on the Status of Women. “Traffickers are liable of a minor, and that the bill gets rid of the statute of limitations from past victims through the system. I support the signing of HB887 by the governor 100%.”

The Women’s Legislative Caucus includes 15 women state representatives and 10 women state Senators.

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Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or


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