Children of Cambodia

Suomeksi | English

Child prostitution

It is estimated that there are approximately 80,000–100,000 prostitutes in Cambodia. There are about 17,000 prostitutes in Phnom Penh, of whom about 30 % are estimated to be under 18 years of age. Accordingly, the number of child prostitutes in Phnom Penh would be about 5,000. These numbers are expected to grow.

Because of stricter control in Thailand, part of the local business of child prostitution has moved to Cambodia, where crimes committed against human rights are common, and both the police and the judicial system are corrupted. The underlying causes of child prostitution in Cambodia are poverty, lack of education, and cultural conditions:

According to a traditional Asian (Chinese) belief, sleeping with a virgin or a child brings happiness, cures sicknesses and even makes one younger. The low status of women – especially girls – complicates the situation as well. A daughter of a poor family can be sacrificed in the name of the common good of the family. In extreme cases, a mother can sell her daughter to prostitution in order to finance the necessary living expenses for the rest of the family.

Knowledge of the explosive growth of the HIV and AIDS epidemic has increased the popularity of child prostitutes. According to a report by United Nations, 33 % of the prostitutes have HIV or AIDS.

According to studies, the risk of a girl being lured into prostitution is increased if the parents of the girl have divorced, one or both of the parents are dead and the girl is living with relatives or friends, an older sister or a friend of the girl is already involved in commercial sex, the parents have alcohol or drug addiction or the family of the girl is desperately poor.

Criminal practices

The amount of money transfers associated with human smuggling equals that associated with drug trafficking

Human trafficking is performed partly by professional criminals, but sometimes it's also a way for the so-called lower classes to earn money. It is assumed that the amount of money transfers associated with human smuggling equal those associated with drug trafficking.

Cambodian children are sold inside the borders of Cambodia and between various brothels, but also to the neighbouring countries, primarily to Thailand. Children are similarly smuggled to Cambodia, mainly from Vietnam. The price of a child is determined by appearance, age, and virginity. Average value is approximately $150/child.

The children get involved in commercial sex in several ways. In some cases, the parents of a girl are tricked by a broker or a middle-man into believing that their child will do domestic work, for example, as a housekeeper in a city. The broker then sells the child to a brothel.

In other cases, when a family of the girl confronts an extreme economic difficulty, the family takes a loan from a broker or a brothel owner. The child has to work in the brothel as a prostitute until the loan and the interest on the loan are repaid. Many times, the shame of the family or the girl are so enormous that the child cannot go back to her village and continues to work as a prostitute.

In some cases the girl is kidnapped and sold to sex slavery in a brothel.

Children are locked in to wait for the well paying clients. Hundreds of dollars are earned during the first few weeks through sexual abuse of a child. Child's will is broken by maltreatment, cheating and threatening. Thus a child is dissuaded to be a slave, whose free agency is deprived.

What can be done

In addition to international agreements, more international attention is needed to focus on more stringent inspections of human rights violations, in order to control human rights crimes, and to restore the rights of the children involved. The challenge of reforming traditional attitudes towards young girls and children is important in Asia as well as in other parts of the world. Sex-tourists are rarely aware of the slavery of the prostitutes and the crimes committed against human rights.

Human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children are widespread and difficult problems which haven't received enough worldwide attention. Lately many non-governmental organisations have begun to fight these serious human rights abuses. Several travel agencies have also joined the effort.

See the page "I Want To Help."