I remember seeing a movie as a young kid in which women were kidnapped and sold into slavery. Believe it or not, it was a musical comedy and I remember thinking even than that, that situation didn't seem particularly humorous.

Although I'm sure my understanding of human trafficking back then was extremely elementary. How and where it happened, and why someone would exchange a human being for cash, was a mysterious and frightening concept back then. And it still is now.

The why of human trafficking is to exploit women, children, and men for the purposes of sex, forced labor or slavery, and even organ removal. The how involves force, fraud, coercion, deception, and sometimes payment.

Where is human trafficking? Everywhere. Thankfully South Dakota is 45th on the list of "Worst States for Human Trafficking". But that doesn't mean it doesn't occur. As we all know there are events that take place in our state that seem to draw that kind of activity.

Beginning July 1 here in South Dakota, legislation that aims to better protect and assist victims of human trafficking goes into effect. The goal of HB1047 is to find and crackdown on perpetrators of the crime and to provide more expansive support and resources like reimbursement of expenses for hospital stays and also psychological counseling.

One of the sad, but necessary, updated tenets of this new legislation makes it clear that even if a parent or guardian consents to a transaction, or a perpetrator claims they didn't know the victim was underage, they will still be prosecuted on first-degree human trafficking charges.

Like so many other of society's problems, this one needs more attention, but this is another step forward.

Sources: Human Trafficking Search, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the South Dakota Legislature

Enter your number to get our free mobile app