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President Barack Obama. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Megan’s Law

Obama signs controversial legislation designed to prevent sex tourism

February 9, 2016

On Monday, President Barack Obama signed “Megan’s Law,” which will notify foreign governments when registered sex offenders travel abroad. The bill — officially titled The International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders — requires the State Department to mark the passports of convicted sex offenders with a “unique identifier.” The State Department will also inform foreign governments when sex offenders are travelling abroad.

The law only applies to those who have been convicted of sex crimes involving minors. Supporters of Megan’s Law say that the legislation can help prevent sex trafficking by making it more difficult for sex offenders to “[plan] their trips around locations where the most vulnerable children can be found,” in the words of Congresswoman Ann Wagner, who co-sponsored the bill. Critics of Megan’s Law assert that branding passports forces sex offenders to forever bear the mark of their past crimes, while limiting their movement imposes unfair restrictions on those who wish to travel for innocuous purposes.

“Megan’s Law” is named after seven-year-old Megan Kanka who was sexually assaulted and murdered by a convicted sex offender living on her street in Hamilton, New Jersey. The original version of the legislation was passed by the New Jersey legislature, and mandates the issue of a public notice when registered sex offenders move into a neighborhood.

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