In a country with corrupt law enforcement, a consistent pedophile clientele, and desperate families willing to sell their daughters into the violent sphere of sex slavery, Cambodia is thriving off of child trafficking. Due to the arrival of a lot of foreign visitors, Cambodia has become one of the main places for child prostitution.
Cambodia is an underdeveloped country in which most people live in poverty. Since girls in Cambodia are considered to be less valuable than boys, families often sell their daughters off to work for pimps; daughters can be as young as four years old when sold. A virgin can be sold for a few hundred dollars, after which her life is owned by her pimp. Once the girls are bounded by a contract, they are in debt to the brothel owner. Usually, it takes about a year to work off the debt, however, even after that, new dues are owed by the girls, as if they are enslaved forever. The Svay Pak red-light district of Cambodia holds the majority of the brothels in the country; there are about fifteen thousand sex workers in Phnom Penh. A six year old that is no longer a virgin is available for about three dollars in the city.
The Violence Behind the Smiles
The sex slaves are forced to smile seductively and beckon men towards them, making it appear as though they are voluntarily prostituting themselves. To ensure that the girls are properly treating their clients, the pimps utilize violence and fear as their main weapons of reinforcement. When the girls are not working, they are kept in tiny rooms in “shacks on a dusty road at the outskirts of the town” (“Innocence for sale”). If one of the girls, ranging from ages 4 to about 20, asks for a break, she is brutally beaten. Electric shocks are the main form of pain that the pimps use because they hurt the girls without ruining the way they look. Often times the electric wires are put inside of the girls, after which they are locked in coffins with biting ants…completely naked. Such punishment takes place in special rooms hidden underground below the brothel, which insures that the screams of the girls are not heard.
“Sex trafficking is truly the 21st century’s version of slavery. One of the differences from 19th-century slavery is that many of these modern slaves will die of AIDS by their late 20” (“Virgin territory”)
Neoliberaism and Foreign Paedophiles
Cambodia is a paedophile tourist destination, but that is not the cause of the problem. According to Mr. Gray, poverty is the cause of the problem. Child prostitution is powered by a government that overlooks it, poor and desperate families, and a consistent clientele. Although there has been progress is the realm of anti-trafficking bills, Cambodian authorities still do not pay much attention the the issue. The steady desperation and need of money from the local families supplies girls into the business. One woman sold her 14 year old daughter to a brothel and exclaimed “most of us think it’s just a job, a career to earn our living…And the girls try to do whatever their parents tell them.” (Ibid.) The idea that having sex with a virgin is has purifying qualities, keeps a constant flow of clients coming in to deflower girls.
“A few foreign paedophiles do not sustain an industry; it needs a large domestic client base, corrupt and ineffective law enforcement, and an ample supply of parents desperate enough to sell their children” (“Innocence for sale”).
“Virgin territory.” The Economist [US] 2 Mar. 1996: 37. Educators Reference Complete. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.
“Innocence for sale; Cambodia.” The Economist [US] 15 Sept. 2007: 54US. Educators Reference Complete. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.
Newman, William J., Ben W. Holt, John S. Rabun, Gary Phillips, and Charles L. Scott. “Child Sex Tourism: Extending the Borders of Sexual Offender Legislation.” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 34.2 (2011): 116-21.