From Sex Work to Entertainment and Trafficking: Implications of a Paradigm Shift for Sexuality, Law and Activism in Cambodia

Authors: 
Overs, C.
Publication date: 
Monday, 2 September, 2013

Location

Cambodia
KH

At the behest of the US government, policy and legislation were introduced in Cambodia in 2008–9 that made virtually all activities associated with commercial sex illegal.

The law confirmed the illegality of human trafficking and procuring for prostitution through the use of force or coercion and extended it to criminalising all third party involvement in sex work. In the wake of this new law, most brothels were closed, street prostitution was dramatically reduced and commercial sex shifted to restaurants, entertainment and massage venues.

The law and its enforcement was criticised by sex workers’ networks, human rights organisations and health agencies who said it violated human rights, would fail to capture perpetrators of abuse and contribute to the spread of HIV and STIs.

This case study describes and examines the impact of the changes brought about by the law focusing particularly on conditions in the entertainment venues; the role of the many national and international policies and institutions that aim to help sex workers and the opportunities for sex workers to develop, articulate and advance demands.

It concludes with ideas about ways in which sex workers might participate in and influence process in which specific, self-identified outcomes can be attained. It argues that re-configuration of the institutions and networks that represent sex workers and victims of trafficking in Cambodia is needed; that grants from international donors should be made to local, member-driven organisations; and recommends that the government revise its definition of trafficking and sexual exploitation

  • Under Cambodian Law sexual exploitation refers only to women
  • Because of the 'Palermo Protocol', Cambodia lacks the autonomy to make its own law/policy decisions about responses to sex work.
Opendocs reference: 
oai:opendocs.ids.ac.uk:123456789/2945