A Missouri House committee will consider a bill that addresses the prosecution of prositution crimes, including giving child offenders the ability to wipe their records clean.
Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, filed the bill, which is titled Protection of Children from Sex Trafficking. The General Laws Committee will hold an executive session at 11 a.m. Thursday to decide whether to advance the bill to the Rules Committee.
The bill would bar charging someone with the crime of prositution if it was committed while they were under 18-years-old, and would give minors convicted of the crime more freedom.
“This is recognizing the intersection of commercial sex work with sexual exploitation and victimization of children,” Coleman said.
The bill states that anyone who was found guilty of prostituion under the age of 18 would be able to apply to the same court to have the record of the crime expunged.
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, who sponsored a similar bill last year, said Coleman’s bill is picking up where she left off. Coleman and Nasheed both said the changes in this bill would empower child sex victims when they become older.
“This is treating victims as victims,” Coleman said. “We’re saying, ‘if you’re under 18, then you can’t be charged with prostitution.'”
Both lawmakers said this is a nonpartisan issue and are confident the bill will progress through both chambers.
“You have children that have been preyed upon everyday here in the state of Missouri,” Nasheed said. “If they’re able to get their records expunged due to the fact that they were minors … then why not?”