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The Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department in Cambodian National Police under the Ministry of the Interior » Women's Courage

The Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department in Cambodian National Police under the Ministry of the Interior

March 3rd, 2011 by elise Leave a reply »

The Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department in Cambodian National Police under the Ministry of the Interior

To Whom It May Concern:

As a concerned citizen of the world, I would like to bring your attention to the plight of Cambodian girls and women who are forced into the sex trade. As you may be aware, 1 in 40 girls in your country will be sold into the sex trade. I have spent the past nine weeks researching sex trafficking in Cambodia, and hope to share with you my findings, and propose an intervention to rehabilitate the girls and women, so that they may be healthy, productive and contributing members of society. The goal of my research and this policy memo are to address the questions:

1. How can we most effectively rehabilitate these girls and women? How can we empower them to raise strong and healthy children who are the future of Cambodia?

2. How can we prevent the sexual exploitation of future generations of females?

Who We Need to Help:

Sex workers are not just teenage girls – we see women of all ages, and girls as young as infants being exploited by brothel owners and pimps. Paying for sex is a fundamental violation of human rights: the right of a woman to her own body, dignity, and freedom. In addition to violating her at the time of sale and for the duration of time in which she is enslaved, sexual exploitation affects a woman’s entire future. If she contracts a sexually-transmitted-infection or suffers severe physical or psychological injuries during her time in a brothel, she will be unable to raise healthy and productive children, who can contribute to Cambodia’s workforce and future as a nation.

Effective Rehabilitation:

I propose that the Ministry of the Interior model a national program after that of Somaly Mam. Somaly is more than a survivor of sex slavery- she’s a human rights crusader, saving girls from brothels and giving them a new life. Her organization is unique because it employs doctors, social workers, and former victims to teach the girls and women at her centers about AIDS prevention, sexual health, emotional health, women’s rights, and the joys of living freely and independently. “Being a former victim myself, I know exactly what their needs are. What they need most is love and understanding,” she explains. Rehabilitation will be most effective if it combines health professionals with strong female mentors who are survivors of sex trafficking or prostitution themselves. This way, girls are less likely to feel intimidated or judged by the people trying to help them.

  • Goal: Provide girls and women with the skills to reintegrate into society and the courage and self-esteem to reduce their risk of falling back into the sex trade.
  • Approach: “All of our programs share an emphasis on the collective voice of the survivors, who participate in every aspect of our work. Survivors who have gone through our rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration programs can choose to join our Voices for Change initiative, which offers them the opportunity”  to do outreach and teach classes to other survivors. VFC members visit brothels, distributing condoms and doing HIV/AIDS education. Girls in the program learn how to speak, read, and write English, use computers, and learn trades. They’re also given time for creative expression and reflection.

There are so many psychological consequences of prostitution, torture, rape, and physical violence that absolutely stay with the girls for the rest of their lives. We want to minimize the long-term negative consequences of theses traumatic experiences, so that we will have a healthy and capable workforce, strong families, and a just social system and culture of equality and prosperity. Girls who are living in the Somaly Mam Foundation/AFESIP centers undergo intense post-traumatic stress and grief counseling with social workers and doctors. Rescued children and women cannot just be released back into the world, but need counseling, medical care, education, and support to learn to live independently. This transition to the real world must be done in a safe and nurturing environment, because many escaped sex slaves are paranoid of the world around them, untrusting of all men, and have such low self-confidence that they don’t realize they can make decisions for themselves about their bodies and their lives. In order for a rehabilitation center to be effective, it must be in a safe, protected location. It is important that we allocate enough resources to hire security for the facility, as there have been problems with pimps breaking into centers and stealing their girls back.

Structural Change:

Around the world, sex trafficking and sex slavery are a huge issue. Cambodia is not alone. It’s important to help the survivors, if we want to produce a more productive and sustainable workforce in sectors that do not violate human rights.  The Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSALVY)’s efforts to eradicate the sex trade are commendable, and I urge you to work towards more of these programs for the benefit of all sectors of society. I was thrilled to learn that the Ministry of Women’s and Veteran’s Affairs and MOSALVY collaborates with UNICEF’s Community-Based Child Protection Network, to teach young community members about the hazards of trafficking, so that individuals are equipped with the tools to recognize potential victims and help them. It is wonderful that MOSLAVY operates two shelters and works to place survivors with NGOs for long-term recovery. I hope that by learning from the Somaly Mam/AFESIP model, the Ministry of the Interior can expand upon its efforts to end sexual exploitation by thoroughly training its staff, expanding its community outreach to both address and prevent these issues, and creating new and improved rehabilitation facilities.  Ideally, we could prevent this before it happens by helping families rise out of extreme poverty without selling their daughters into the sex trade.

Cultural Change:

I believe that Cambodia can benefit from adopting the spirit of Eve Ensler’s V-Day campaign and commitment to ending all forms of violence and silencing of women. Ensler’s “V-girls” global network of activists and advocates is about letting girls embrace their unique energy, compassion, passion, and vibrant joie de vivre to make change. “What changes things is people. People becoming emotional creatures. What’s changing the Congo is people speaking up. if we’re not awake in our emotional creatures, we can’t wake up others,” says Ensler. Cambodia has thousands of girls with strong voices who are being silenced, numbed, buried. If we empower these girls to use their spark to create the change they imagine for this world, we will see a revolution led for the girls of the sex trade, by the girls themselves. What women want and need in a rehabilitation center is a place to heal, a place to be trained to heal others, and a place to gather their strength. We need to use dance, theater, music, art, and writing to harness the energy of girls, and help them rise out of trauma and subjugation. I understand that resources are limited, but may I suggest that we provide every single Cambodian girl who is rescued from a brothel with a copy of Eve Ensler’s “I am an Emotional Creature,” a collection of monologues inspired by girls around the world, about their experiences in and with sex slavery, forced labor, FGM, body image, and the emotional rollercoaster of life. Ensler proves that the written word is tremendously empowering and inspiring of creativity, activism, and lasting grassroots change.

Preventative Measures:

The Human Rights Task Force on Cambodia, an international NGO set up by five Asian and one American human rights organizations, believes that women may be sold into the sex trade by family members, but if they ever escape, they face immense discrimination, isolation, and stigmatization by relatives and friends. We must realize that a woman permanently bears the ‘mark’ of a sex slave, and may be completely abandoned by her former support network. Furthermore, her marriage prospects are significantly diminished, so starting a new life and finding employment and a romantic partner may seem and be impossible. This contributes to the heavy shame that women bear, both during their time in brothels, and once they leave. If we do not do something to eliminate this paralyzing social stigma, we will lose a generation of Cambodians, because their moms will be uneducated, and living in poverty, without the support of their community and government.

In addition to being ostracized, a woman’s physical and psychological health are damaged, sometimes beyond repair. For girls and women who contract HIV/AIDS and other dangerous STIs, as well as those whose psychological distress escalates into severe depression or suicidal thinking, actually leaving the brothel doesn’t have any benefits. Physical “freedom” or distance from the brothel, pimps, and clients doesn’t equal immunity, protection, or an erasure of cumulative damage. If a woman gets pregnant through intercourse with a brothel client, she risks giving birth to an unhealthy baby, or one with HIV. Because of the severity of mother-to-child transmission of this disease, we need to make an effort to make medical services available to these women.

What can the government’s rehabilitation centers do to promote family support of survivors?

  • Offer multi-faceted support (sort of like family therapy) for girls and women who have escaped from the sex trade, or better yet, do it preventatively, in schools and community centers. Teach families that sex slaves are not to blame for the spread of HIV/AIDS, survivors of rape and sexual abuse are not unworthy or impure, having sex with virgins does not cure a man of AIDS, and all women deserve respect, dignity, and the protection of their human rights.
  • Make parents and siblings of survivors a big part of the support network post-rescue. Perhaps holding gatherings to allow parents to voice their concerns, support each other, and learn to accept, respect, and love their daughters, celebrating their strength.

I hope that through collaboration with local and international NGOs, the Ministry of the Interior can expand its efforts to rescue girls and women from the sex trade, and rehabilitate them so that they are empowered, productive members of society. Through dedication to ending the human rights violations of sex trafficking and slavery, we can create a more equal, peaceful, just, and cohesive nation that will thrive economically, socially, and politically.

Thank you for your consideration.

In good health,

Elise Geithner

Stanford University Undergraduate


Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. “Cambodia: Prostitution and Sex Trafficking.” US Department of State. 23 July 2010. Web. 20 Jan. 2011. <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2732.htm>.

Ensler, Eve. “I am an Emotional Creature.” Presentation at Castelleja School, Palo Alto, CA. 3 March 2011.

Hansen, Chris. “Children For Sale.” MSNBC. 9 Jan. 2005. Web. 2 Feb. 2011. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4038249/ns/dateline.nbc

HumanTrafficking.org. “Cambodia.”  http://www.humantrafficking.org/organizations/42

3 March 2011.

Human Rights Task Force on Cambodia. “Cambodia: Prostitution and Sex Trafficking.” Human Rights Solidarity. 13 Aug. 2001. Web. 20 Jan. 2011. <hrsolidarity.net>.

Murray, Anne. “From Outrage to Courage.”

The Road to Traffik. Prod. Norman J. Roy. The Somaly Mam Foundation. Web. 12 Jan. 2011. <www.somaly.org>.

Nair, Sowmia. “Child Sex Tourism.” US Department of Justice. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://www.justice.gov/criminal/ceos/sextour.html>.


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