PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) — American Samoa's anti-human trafficking measure will take effect in June after the acting governor signed it into law last week.
The legislation will allow the government to investigate and prosecute those who would exploit others, said Acting Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga.
There have been human trafficking cases in American Samoa recently, and the victims haven't been limited by age, gender, ethnicity, nationality or village, Mauga said.
A decade ago, the South Korean owner of the now defunct Daewoosa Samoa garment factory and three Samoan employees were convicted of enslaving more than 200 workers from Vietnam, most of them women.
Last year, an American Samoan man was accused of bringing three women to the territory from neighboring Samoa and forcing them to perform sex acts on him.
"The past has shown that the victims are our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, our nieces and nephews, our sons and daughters, our friends and neighbors," Mauga said. "This law is the first step to ensuring the past will not be repeated."
The law specifically outlaws human trafficking and makes it punishable by five to 10 years in prison, with a mandatory 10 years if the trafficking involves a minor. Prosecutors previously had to depend on other statutes to prosecute cases.
The law also mandates a human trafficking task force collect data, and recommend policies and procedures.
Advocates for victims of domestic and sexual violence say the law will raise awareness about behaviors that may be identified as human trafficking.
The bill, which originated with Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, was approved last year by the territorial House and endorsed by the Senate last month.
Mauga, who is lieutenant governor, is serving as acting governor while Moliga receives medical treatment in Honolulu.