Trafficking involves the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person by force, coercion or other violent means, for the purpose of exploiting them. Victims are found in various industries with a major focus on the sex industry. Every year thousands of women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their home countries and abroad.
Trafficking in Cambodia
There are many reasons why human trafficking exists in Cambodia. Human trafficking in Cambodia has increased because of many factors including poverty, social and economic imbalances between rural and urban areas, increased tourism, lack of employment, education, and poverty being the most significant cause of trafficking.
The aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970’s is still felt both psychologically and economically throughout Cambodia and plays a direct role in labor and sexual exploitation / trafficking.
The upheaval caused by the Khmer Rouge conflict and lack of opportunities in rural areas has sparked a need for people to return to the cities and urban areas for work, areas that were once emptied by the Khmer rouge regime.
With well over half the population below the age of 20, Cambodia faces a growing problem of providing decent work for its young population, further increasing the drive toward cross-border migration for employment which heightens the vulnerability to human trafficking.
The Virginity Trade
Virgins in Cambodia, who have been sold to brothels by trafficking agents, are confined to the brothel or a hotel room until the first client comes. This client is charged a much higher amount, due to the belief that having sex with a virgin has rejuvenating properties, such as acquiring pure white skin and attractive youthful appearance. Many Cambodians believe that having sex with a virgin can also cure aids, HIV and other diseases.
Advertised as “special commodities,” virgins, some children as young as 3 years old are attractive to clients because they are less likely to have AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases.
The customers can pay as little as a few hundred dollars to have sex with the young woman or child for one week in a local hotel chosen by the brothel owner.
The enslaved girls must remain at the brothel until the debt to their purchaser is paid off, or else they face beatings. It is difficult, if not impossible to pay off this debt, since the owners consider the girls indebted to them for their ever-increasing expenses for food, clothing, medical costs and abortions. As a result, a brothel owner will often hold a girl prisoner until she becomes too old or too ill to attract customers.
What about Australia?
Australia is a source and destination county for Human trafficking & slavery. It is roughly estimated that approximately 4,300 people are enslaved in Australia today.
However due to the hidden nature of this crime it is highly likely that these figures have been grossly under reported.
The majority of trafficked people to Australia have entered Australia legally on student, tourist or work visas, however have ended up in situations of sexual exploitation, slavery and are held against their will and have a substantial debt bondage over their heads. Most are lured to Australia by traffickers promising attractive employment opportunities or schooling.
Common experiences of people trafficked to Australia include; extremely poor working conditions, labor without pay, being forced to live in the workplace working 24 hours a day, sexual abuse & enslavement, physical and verbal abuse, threats to family members and confiscation of visas, travel and legal documentation.