Gov. Deval Patrick has signed into a law a bill that would impose life sentences for pimps and others found guilty of trafficking children for sex or forced labor.
The bill signed by Patrick in his office on Monday also treats children and others forced into prostitution as victims instead of offenders.
The measure was overwhelmingly approved by Massachusetts lawmakers last week.
Human rights advocates have pushed for the new law, which they said would help shift the focus of law enforcement officials onto the pimps who traffic children and women against their will and the men paying for sex with them.
Attorney General Martha Coakley has called human trafficking the fastest growing type of criminal enterprise in Massachusetts. She said the Internet has made the trafficking of young women and girls easier.
"You can take a 22-, 23-year-old woman ... a 30-year-old woman — [the] average age she got involved in the business, 13," Coakley said. "So people don't necessarily see her as a victim now, but she started out as a victim and that's part of what this bill will address also."
The new law sets up a commission to look at what needs to be done to further implement the law.
Massachusetts is the 47th state in the nation to adopt stricter human trafficking laws.
With reporting by The Associated Press and WBUR's Steve Brown
This article was originally published on November 21, 2011.
This program aired on November 21, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.