The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas legislature has passed a bill providing for tougher penalties against sex crimes.
The Marianas Variety reports that the bill increases the maximum prison term for sexual assault or sexual abuse from 10 to 15 years.
This is the first bill that Governor Benigno Fitial has received from the 18th Legislature, and one which he vetoed last year.
The author of the bill, Representative Edmund Villagomez, says the disturbing rate of sexual crimes against children shows present laws are simply not deterring criminal activity.
He says sexual crimes, especially when the victims are children, are a big issue in a small community like the CNMI.