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Pennsylvania lawmakers advanced a package of bills this week aiming to address human trafficking, the second-largest and one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world.

The House Judiciary Committee, led by chairman Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, approved eight bills to deter human traffickers and provide greater protections and recourse for victims.

Human trafficking is the abduction, transportation and deception of people to use them for forced labor or sexual exploitation.

“The committee moved several House bills onto the full chamber for consideration that would put more teeth into the penalties for those who commit this heinous crime,” Kauffman said. “The number of cases continues to rise and catching these criminals is often quite difficult with victims being too scared, threatened, drug addicted or manipulated by their traffickers to actively reach out for help.”

Three of the bills would increase offenses when involving children in human and sex trafficking. House Bill 231 would expand the list of activities that constitute unlawful contact with a minor to include human trafficking offenses involving sexual abuse of a minor.

Under House Bill 1130, anyone convicted of human trafficking offenses involving sexual servitude would be required to register on the Sexual Offender Registration.

Victims would be protected from their past sexual victimization from being introduced as evidence in a prosecution in House Bill 246.

Kaufman personally authored House Bill 1096, which would allow the venue in a statutory civil action to take place in the Court of Common Pleas where the alleged violation occurred instead of where the individual resides.

Each bill passed with bipartisan support and next will go before the full House for a vote.

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