Legislature 2002

House to pass
diluted child
sex-exploitation bill

This bill requires only that
adult businesses keep a record
of their employees' ages

By Stephanie Healea

The state House is poised today to pass a watered-down version of a bill to prevent sexual exploitation of minors at adult businesses.

The measure originally would have created a new felony of "sexual exploitation of a minor" with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines for businesses that hired people under the age of 18 for sex-related businesses like nude and exotic dancing, nude and erotic massage and escort services.

It had been stuck in the House Judiciary Committee, but a floor amendment Tuesday breathed life back into the bill.

The amended bill now only requires adult businesses to keep records of the ages of their employees.

Kelly Hill, founder and special adviser of Sisters Offering Support, said her organization is "disappointed" in the new measure.

"At least (the bill) is still alive, so we have something to work with," Hill said.

Judiciary Vice Chairman Blake Oshiro said the bill had been held because some parts of the bill were probably unconstitutional, and there was no need to create a new felony because existing laws already prohibit activities outlined in the bill.

"The proprietors of nude bars, massage parlors and escort agencies listed in the proposed legislation already appear covered" by two current laws that prohibit the use of minors in pornographic materials or performances, he said.

Honolulu Liquor Commission rules bar anyone under 21 from working as a stripper.

There are also already laws in effect against prostitution, said Oshiro (D, Red Hill-Aiea).

However, Hill said "we want to have a law that will protect children before it gets to pornography or prostitution."

Honolulu police Capt. Kevin Lima of the Narcotics/Vice Division said the main thing is that the people hiring young women for sex-related businesses make some reasonable checks of the validity of someone's age to work at the establishment. "We've had situations where the owner doesn't want to know so they can claim ignorance and say, 'It's not my fault,'" said Lima.

Opponents say the bill is not needed.

"There are already laws on the books against slavery, kidnapping, assault and extortion. ... The wording of this bill allows the government to forcibly suppress activities that are completely voluntary," said John Orendt, lobbyist and vice chairman of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii.

"If there is in fact a victim, then there already exists a legal recourse," he said.

Johnny Lee, owner of the Wild Tiger Nite Club, a strip club, said he already checks the yellow registration card from the Liquor Commission to verify that a dancer is eligible to work at his business, because he wants to keep his liquor license.

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