Sex Trafficking in Florida: Panel Meeting Tomorrow at FAU

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Putting teeth into the talk, the women scholars of FAU's Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies are turning from theory to practice tomorrow afternoon with the program, "Ending Sex Trafficking in the State of Florida."

Florida Sen. Maria Sachs, for whom the issue is a major focus, will kick off the event with a discussion of legislation directed at the problem; a panel of graduate students will follow with a presentation on the role of the courts and non-governmental organizations in making those laws work.

As a gateway country adjoining the poverty-stricken lands of Latin America, and a world-wide tourist destination, with an economy based largely on leisure and pleasure, Florida is a natural magnet for the smuggling of humans, ranked third among states for the number of calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's hotline. Some victims do the dirty work of the kitchen and the lawn, most -- an estimated 75-80% -- do the service of the bed.

The racket burst into the headlines locally with the sensational 1997 arrest of Ukrainian mobster Ludwig "Tarzan" Fainberg, whose Porky's nightclub was a center for South Florida's international sex trade.

The egregious nature of the crimes -- 80% of trafficked humans are female, half are children -- has made it an issue that spans the political spectrum. Gov. Rick Scott led off a human trafficking summit at USF last month; AG Pam Bondi has declared Florida a "zero-tolerance" state for human trafficking.

Legislative measures have, despite widespread support, sometimes failed to pass into law, as did this and this in 2010.

Senator Sachs had better luck with HB 7049, which she co-sponsored and was signed into law in 2012. That bill toughened penalties for human trafficking and gave the Office of Statewide Prosecution jurisdiction over cases. On January 1 of this year, with her support the Florida Safe Harbor Act came into effect. That bill placed children rescued from slavery into the care of safe houses rather than jails.

The panel that follows Sachs will be drawn from students in the FAU Women's Studies Center's "Feminization of Poverty" class and the school history department's "Women and Slavery" seminar. With luck, they'll turn knowledge into power.

"Ending Sex Trafficking in the State of Florida" Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 4 p.m. Hillel Center, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton campus Free and open to the public. For more information, call FAU's Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies 561-297-3865.

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.

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