Sex Workers in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia known for sex tourism. With the highest rate of HIV infection in Asia, sex workers in Cambodia are likely to contract HIV, which causes AIDS.

An estimated 10 to 40 million women sell sex around the world, the majority of whom are mothers looking for a way to support their families. In Cambodia, where 36% of the population lives below the poverty line and only 30% of girls attend schools, women are desperate to make a living for themselves and their families. Girls from poor, rural families come to cities where they can make a living in the sex industry. The average age of sex workers is 29.

Abortion and AIDS are the most common cause of death among sex workers in Cambodia. According to a study by Global Health Promise, a nonprofit based in Portland, sex workers are 12 times more likely to be infected with HIV than other women. HIV is passed from mother to child to during pregnancy, and children of sex workers are most likely to die from AIDS than any other cause.

Unprotected sex in brothels and entertainment hubs in Cambodia is common. Although abortion is legal in Cambodia, public clinics often do not provide the procedure. Women are forced to use other methods and may use traditional practices like deep massage abortion, which can cause fatal hemorrhages.

With in the next five years, it is expected that 200,000 children in Cambodia will be orphaned by AIDS, and at least 15,000 will be HIV-positive. Life-saving AIDS drugs cost $500 per year for a child. Drugs provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) are received by only 3,000 people out of the 170,000 infected with HIV.

With the assistance of the WHO, the Cambodian government is making efforts to reduce and treat HIV among sex workers. The 100% Condom Use Program (CUP) Pilot Project aims to prevent the transmission of HIV from high-risk groups, including sex workers, to low-risk groups, like housewives. It also aims to control STIs through condom use and provide access to outreach programs for all sex workers.

Organizations like Hope for Justice recognize the importance of education and have established schools for sex trafficking survivors. Sunrise New Hope is another organization that is working to restore hope, dignity and promise to sex workers and provides free education, medical and welfare services.

A commitment by local authorities is needed to help stop the spread of HIV.  Moreover, girls must have access to education to be able to find other employment with which they can support their families. Working to eliminate poverty is key to reducing the spread of HIV among sex workers in Cambodia.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr

Poverty_encouraging_generational_prostitution_IndiaThere are 2.2 billion children in the world. One billion of those children live in poverty. Each day 22,000 children die from poverty and it is the rural areas that account for 75% of the world’s population living on less than $1 per day. The bulk of impoverished communities are found in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In brothels and small villages, generational prostitution occurs out of need. It is considered to be a strategic method of survival for those experiencing severe poverty.

One percent of the population of women in India are sex workers, accounting for 6,230, 000 people. Among that population, over 90% of the sex workers experience generational prostitution. In the Indian culture, in some castes it is traditional to engage in familial prostitution. The caste system in India is quite strong, and, therefore, most children will never have the opportunity for education or non-sexually based work. Most sex workers are born into it. In many areas in India, women have very little chance to escape the ramifications of being poor, regardless of a caste system or not.

Prostitution in India is an accepted way of life and it is confirmed through societal norms. Generational prostitution occurs at almost every brothel. Most brothels are owned by women who were former sex workers, who now employ their children because sexually enslaving one’s children is seen as a means to avoid living in complete poverty. The sex industry provides a large amount of income for urban areas. In New Delhi alone, $2 million is the annual profit of the sex and brothel workers. The average client pays $2.

In the village of Nat Purwa, India, the population suffers from abject poverty. In this community, prostitution is considered to be a hereditary occupation, passed on from one generation of women to the next. As a result of the “family dimension” to the sex trade, men are often involved, which makes sex work an important aspect of the family economy. Women and female children who sell themselves are often the family’s only source of income. Women are purchased for 500 rupees, or $8, and girls aged between 12 and 16 are purchased for 2,000 rupees or $32 dollars. Other villages that are similar to Nat Purwa are Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Bedias, Faasi and Banjar.

Generational prostitution is occurring around the globe in various countries even outside the areas of Asia and Africa, where it occurs most often. In Russia, married women work as prostitutes in full view and with encouragement from their husbands. Often, a husband will suggest this type of work for his wife and any female children they have.

The issue of global poverty needs to be addressed in order to address issues of human rights injustices, including generational prostitution. Generations to come are predetermined to their fate of becoming sex workers. Efforts to end this epidemic have made many countries strengthen their laws against human sex trafficking, prostitution and the purchasing of sex. In both Sweden and Norway, the purchase of sexual services has been made illegal. Studies from those countries indicate that having these new laws has had a profound impact on demand, causing human sex trafficking to decrease significantly. Proven results in other countries indicate that methods to curtail sex working as a generational means of survival is feasible.

Erika Wright

Sources: Al Jazeera, Ashraya, BBC, Global Issues, PBS, Swasthya Mundial
Photo: Business Insider

Activists for women’s rights will argue both sides of the prostitution spectrum; some say it can be liberating for women who are able to find financial independence, that the amount of abuse is thoroughly overestimated and that it is a job like any other and should have the same benefits and regulations. Others say it is a violation of women, that it is a humiliation and never a freely-made choice.

Last February in Barcelona, 15 women ranging from 22 years in age to 50 years in age attended an ‘Intro to Prostitution’ course organized by Conxa Borrell. Borrell commented that “[w]e’re at an impasse where people are unemployed, and they still have to pay their mortgages and feed their children. This is a line of work that many women feel they can do.”

Lidia Falcón, founder of the Feminist Party in Spain, condemned this course saying it had an “underlying suggestion that some women are working in the profession out of their own free will. It’s a false, repugnant discussion about liberty, as if being a sex worker is something you can choose to do because you like it. They say they’re helping women, but they’re just helping them to be exploited and humiliated.”

However, most accounts from women who have worked as sex workers do not report being humiliated. An anonymous publication in The Globe and Mail on March 4 tells of a woman’s personal experience working in the prostitution industry: “I was broke and did what I had to do to survive. On the other, I was able to keep my head up because it was not hard to rationalize away my choices: Our society is based on a system of exploitation, and you have to ask if sexual services are really so different when you get over people’s hangups about sex.” Point being, is selling your body really so different from selling any other product for cash?

In Tunisia, where prostitution is regulated by the state, sex workers demand for their brothel to be reopened after radical Islamists threw them out. “We know the state cannot help us financially, because the current economic situation is so bad,” says Souhir, a Tunisian sex worker. “That’s why we’re calling for the brothel to be reopened, so we don’t have to ask for charity.”

None of these woman claim that they are forced to be sex workers, but they do all share the similarity of having fallen on hard times financially. This begs the question: would there still be sex workers if there was no poverty, and if so, would people like Falcón still call it an exploitation and humiliation?

– Lydia Caswell

Sources: The Free Press Journal, The Globe and Mail, Al Arabiya
Photo: Rediff

Human trafficking has grown into a widespread and horrific issue in Thailand. The country has become a trafficking hub, sending and recruiting people all over the world to work in prostitution, unfair labor situations, forced marriages, sex tourism, and other crimes.

The majority of the human trafficking in Thailand feeds into prostitution. The country has struggled with its treatment of women since it became a country in the 1930s. The country did not grant equal rights to women until 1997 and today is still not enforcing these standards of equal rights consistently. Research conducted by the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand explains that approximately 1.5 million female children report cases of abuse annually. This shocking number does not include the vast number of cases left unreported. Further inquiry into these discoveries by the Ministry of Public Health reveals that females under 15 years old made up nearly one half of all reported rape and abuse cases in Thailand.

Sex trafficking and prostitution have always been a part of Thailand’s history, however, the Vietnam War contributed to an explosion of the issue between 1955 and 1975. With an influx of anxious, homesick, and bored soldiers into the country, spilling over from Vietnam, the demand for prostitution skyrocketed, resulting in the growth of the human trafficking industry which still remains today. The influx in human trafficking during this time, combined with a historical view of women as inferior, has led to the cultural acceptance of prostitution throughout most of Thailand. The World Health Organization estimates that Thailand currently has nearly 2 million sex workers.

Deep poverty and desperation of many Thai citizens have contributed to the human trafficking industry and problems that have derived from it. People who do not hold proper immigration documentation or citizenship are the most vulnerable recruits, as they perceive this path as their only opportunity to make money. Recruiters target many impoverished people, telling them they are being led to a job where they will have an opportunity to make money to send to their family. The hill tribe women in Northern Thailand, who lack citizenship papers, often fall into prostitution, as it is the only job they can perform without needing proof of citizenship.

Victims of human trafficking can be forced into prostitution or the sex trade or other forms of difficult labor, often without any pay or any limitation on the amount of hours they must work. Though exact numbers are currently unknown, trafficked children make up a significant part of the labor force in construction work zones or factory sweatshops. Many of these trafficking victims work in the fishing industry and relayed how it was not uncommon for a boat captain to kill any of the fishermen who fell sick or too weak to work under these harsh conditions.

Some critics have called for the legalization of prostitution in Thailand as a method of curbing the trafficking problem. This could lead to better legal protection for prostitutes and would put many traffickers out of business. Additionally, if the industry were legal the government could tax it, making a profit of it and discouraging people from prostitution, as it would be more expensive to cover the tax. However, Thailand would be taking a step backwards in their push to end trafficking and prostitution. While it may sound economically beneficial to legalize prostitution, one must not forget the basic violation of human rights that prostitution, forced labor, and the slave trade infringes on its victims.

– Allison Meade

Sources: State Department, Human Rights Watch, Human Trafficking
Photo: Sabre