There was not much fanfare when Gov. Nikki Haley inked one particular piece of legislation Monday to officially make it law in South Carolina. In many respects, it is sad the law even had to be written. Still, this one particular law should be heralded, and state House Rep. Ralph Shealy Kennedy, who represents Saluda and Lexington counties, should be commended for its sponsorship.
Kennedy’s legislation tweaked existing state law by expanding the definition of what constitutes the exploitation of minors. The intent is to crack down harder on pedophiles.
At issue are images of minors in which they are depicted in sexually suggestive poses. Kennedy said he had been made aware that existing law made it difficult for prosecutors to succeed in prosecuting pedophiles who were not engaged in sexual acts with minors, but rather who had sexually suggestive “visual representations” of minors.


The amendment to the law expands the definition of exploitation to include any attempt to encourage or coerce a minor “to appear in a state of sexually explicit nudity when a reasonable person would infer the purpose is sexual stimulation.” As it was, the state’s law addressed the issue of exploitation of minors through the encouragement of minors to participate in sexual activity and live performances of such activity.
There exists a sordid underground in our nation and in the world. Human trafficking and pornography remain a profitable business. Sadly, many of those who are exploited for sexual purposes are minors. They are filmed and photographed as they are made to perform sexual acts, either with other children or with adults. Those images are, in turn, then sold.
No doubt there always will be a market for such, but it is good South Carolina has taken another step toward putting more teeth into existing law in the effort to at least punish the criminals. All efforts must continue to be made to severely punish those who provide such materials, who traffic minors for people’s twisted gratification, but this amendment to our state’s existing laws is indeed welcome news.
Those with children or grandchildren surely can understand and will wholeheartedly endorse any laws that further the cause in stopping and punishing the sexual exploitation of minors. Children often face more than their fair share of difficulties in their formative years. To rob them of their innocence by making them perform sexual acts or even pose in such a way that depicts sexual acts should be met with harsh penalties.
We would have to concur with Kennedy who said he would like such laws to carry a penalty in which pedophiles are removed from society for life. Instead, we can only hope a decade behind bars, coupled with imposed intensive counseling, will result in pedophiles being reformed. Short of that, applying lifelong restrictions on their freedoms and methods of easily identifying pedophiles, such as through the sex offender registry, we can do our best to protect other minors from harm.