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House Outlaws Sex Tourism

On June 26, the House approved, 418-8, legislation (H.R. 4477) that would make it a federal crime, with a penalty of up to 15 years in prison, for anyone who travels to another state or to a foreign country with the express “purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct” with a minor. The Judiciary Committee passed the bill on June 19 (see The Source, 6/21/02)

Current law requires the prosecution to prove that an individual traveled to another state or country with the intent of engaging in illicit sexual relations with minors. Under H.R. 4477, the prosecution would only have to prove that the defendant engaged in illicit sexual conduct with a minor while in another state or foreign country. The bill also makes it a federal crime for tour operators to arrange or facilitate travel plans for a client knowing that the person is traveling to another state or country for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct.

Proponents contended that the bill would close loopholes in the law that allow persons who travel to foreign countries seeking sex with minors to escape prosecution. Opponents argued that the legislation is overly broad and that states and foreign countries have their own laws against the activities covered by the bill.

“Those who travel abroad and break the law in their host country should be subject to prosecution in that country,” said Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). “It is a highly unique proposal to suggest that committing a crime in a foreign country against a non-U.S. citizen is within the jurisdiction of the United States Government,” he added.

Expressing support for the bill, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said, “Preventing trafficking is an important step to ending the sex trade industry…Although we continue to make important advances in the rights of women throughout the world, as long as there are women whose freedoms, livelihoods, bodies, and souls are held captive because of trafficking, our work will never be done.”

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