Equality Now Welcomes First State Legislation of Its Kind in Nation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 20, 2004
Contact: Lakshmi Anantnarayan
New York, May 20, 2004--In an unprecedented move to combat sex tourism, the Lt. Governor of Hawaii yesterday signed into law Act 82, an Act relating to prostitution. This Act makes it a class C felony, with a sentence of up to five years in prison, to sell or offer to sell travel services for the purpose of engaging in prostitution and authorizes suspension or revocation of a travel agency registration for engaging in these acts.
Equality Now supported passage of the Act, giving written and oral testimony at both Hawaii State Senate and House Committee hearings. The amendment to the Penal Code as a result of this legislation will make it easier for law enforcement authorities to investigate, prosecute and convict sex tour operators for their criminal activities because it defines the typical activities of sex tour operators as promoting travel for prostitution. Further, by recognizing implicitly that the act of engaging in prostitution and the act of promoting travel for prostitution may occur in different jurisdictions, it makes clear to law enforcement authorities that they can prosecute the offense of promoting travel for prostitution, even though the act of prostitution itself may not take place in the State of Hawaii.
Equality Now believes that in addition to aiding prosecutors and licensing officials, this law will serve as a model for future federal and state legislation on sex tourism. “We hope the passage of Act 82 will trigger legislation nationwide for the protection of the human rights of women and girls and the prosecution of those in the sex tourism industry. Equality Now urges other states to follow the impressive example set by Hawaii in amending their laws to specifically criminalize the activities of sex tour operators,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, Executive Director.
Equality Now’s campaign against sex tourism in Hawaii, and one sex tour operation in particular, inspired the introduction and passage of the new legislation. Video Travel, a sex tour company based in Honolulu owned by Melvin M. Hamaguchi, was until very recently operating under license from the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Video Travel has been sending sex tourists on its Ultimate Asian Sex Tour to Thailand every May and November. In August 2002, Equality Now filed a complaint with the Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO) of the State of Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, requesting that Mr. Hamaguchi’s travel agency license be revoked on the basis that he is an “unfit person” to hold a license or be registered as a travel agent. No action was taken until April 2004, when Mr. Hamaguchi agreed to the voluntary revocation of his license on other grounds. He is no longer allowed to operate as a travel agent in Hawaii. In November 2003, Equality Now also called on Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett to prosecute Mr. Hamaguchi for promotion of prostitution, but no criminal proceedings have been initiated.