Home Special Reports Sex workers stories from across asia Financial Crisis has Led to an Increase in Cambodian Women Entering the Sex Trade

Financial Crisis has Led to an Increase in Cambodian Women Entering the Sex Trade

E-mail Print PDF

Download - Listen 

An increasing number of Cambodian women are turning to the entertainment industry to survive after losing their factory jobs due to the global economic downturn.

That’s According to a new United Nations report.

Cambodia has been hit hard by the global financial crisis. In this year alone nearly 80 garment factories have been forced to close. 

And the women who have lost their job as a result have been forced to find money elsewhere.

Khortieth Him in Phnom Pehn has their story.

It is five o’clock in the afternoon and Tultombung the entertainment district of the capital is getting ready for another busy night.

Restaurants, clubs, massage parlors and karaoke parlors are opening up their doors.  

Down a small alley at the back of the market, there is a row of young girls in short sexy skirts sitting in front of a massage parlor, waiting for guests.

27 year-old Sothy is one of them.

“Some days I receive 10 guests and some days 12. I massage them and yes I feel exhausted every day.”

She started working here three months ago after her garment factory closed down.

“Some guests they want only a normal massage, but some fight to have sex with us. I have met those types of guests. It depends on us what we want to do.”

Sothy is from Kampon Cham province.  She says the money she earns - 80 U.S dollars a month - supports her family of eight people.

Rural Cambodians who have sent their daughters to the city expect them to send regular amounts of money home.

“There is no job in my home town. Farming is the only option and it's hard and you don’t make much money. In the city we work long hours but we can earn more and eat good food here. If we get sick the boss will take care of us.”

According to a new United Nations report she is part of a growing number of women turning to the entertainment industry for work.

“It is interesting that we found many of garment workers have entered into the entertainment industry because they have lost their job and it is difficult for them to find another one in the factory."

Lim Tith, is the Coordinator of the UN’s Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in Cambodia.

He says that the most common reason given by the women and girls for entering the sex trade is the difficult family circumstances.

“They do not return home because they really need money to remit home to their family because some of their family depend wholly on their incomes for example for medical or for their siblings go to school. So they really need money and need jobs and if they don't find jobs in another place they have to go into this sector."

Cambodia has been hit hard by the global financial crisis.  

Nearly 80 factories have been closed this year and another 20 are preparing to close.

Unions say as a result more than 60 thousand women have lost their jobs.

“The number of women who work with entertainment places is increased now and also if we go to see around the city there many clubs who have just opened as well. This is what we observed."

Prok Vann is the board director of Star Cambodia a women’s rights organization.

She says the former garment factory workers have little formal education so their options are very limited.

“This is a serious problem because economic is like a priority of the people it seems like a link to the right of the people. If no economic it sounds like no eating and if no eating what happen to the people? Something like this we can say why they need to work like this, like clubs, KARAOKE, or some people to work in brothel for the sex work? Because they need eating something like this they can survive their life."

‘Please do not look down at us’ goes the lyrics of this song ‘Karaoke workers are not bad people like you think we also need respect and our dignity’ continues this song that is sung by a karaoke women’s groups to demand equal rights.

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia where over 30 percent of the population earn less than 50 US cents per day.

While the country has experienced dramatic economic growth in recent years particularly in the real estate and tourism sector, it has lead to growing inequalities.

“The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and poorer.

Tea Phally, is the vice president of the National AIDS Authority.

“The problem in Cambodia is that the rich can do anything they want and the poor are forced to do any kind of job for money.”

The UN’s Lim Tith says the women who have lost their jobs as a result of the global downturn are very vulnerable to abuse.

“Because broker or trafficker can take this opportunity just to say offer them job and then they cheat and sell them to any kinds of trade particularly the sex trade."


Last Updated ( Monday, 17 August 2009 11:03 )  

Add comment

Asia Calling House Rules for Comments:
We reserve the right to fail messages that:
· Are likely to provoke, attack or offend others
· Are racist, homophobic or sexists or otherwise objectionable
· Contain swear words or other language likely to offend
· Break the law or encourage illegal behavior
· Include contact details including number or email address
· Are considered to be advertising or promoting a product or SPAM
· Are considered off-topic

Security code