A woman who’s a state Senator says women and children are being enslaved in Iowa, and it’s time to write a state law so those guilty of human trafficking can be prosecuted in a state court.

Senator Maggie Tinsman, a Republican from Davenport, says there is “modern-day slavery” in Iowa, and victims are being forced, defrauded or coerced into slave labor or sexual exploitation. “It’s a huge problem,” Tinsman says. Tinsman says Iowans may believe it isn’t happening here, but it is because the feds are prosecuting a case in Iowa.

Tinsman says the victims are sold into all sorts of servitude, including so-called “sweat shops” and forced farm labor. She says the practice poses all sorts of risk, including health problems as well as a growth in organized crime. There is a federal law against human trafficking, but Tinsman says Iowa does not have a law declaring the practice illegal. The problem is wide-ranging, according to Tinsman.

She says world-wide, there are up to 800-thousand people being sold into slave labor, and thousands of them are in this country. About 80 percent of them are women and children, according to Tinsman. “We have to address it immediately,” Tinsman says. “I thought in the 19th century, this country banned slavery and I thought that meant forever, but now in the 21st century we have a kind of slavery that flourishes as an insidious, stealthy, undercover form and that’s human trafficking.”

Tinsman will sponsor a bill in January to criminalize human trafficking and provide immunity to the victims, and she plans to ask other legislators to set aside money to train local law enforcement officials about the problem and how best to investigate and catch those guilty of human trafficking.