Archive for June, 2009

The Asia and the Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) would like to commend the U.S. Department of State on their 2009 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, with specific reference to their recognition of Cambodia’s failure to properly implement and enforce minimum international standards with it’s law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. The TIP Report acknowledges a number of the issues arising from the conflation of sex work and trafficking in Cambodia, as well as the misguided enforcement of the law. The root of this being that “Not all government officials have appeared to distinguish between the law’s articles on trafficking offences and non-trafficking crimes such as prostitution … as a result law enforcement has focused on prostitution-related crimes…”. As noted in the TIP report “Following the passage of the law Cambodian police conducted numerous raids on brothels and detained a large number of women in prostitution while failing to arrest, investigate or charge any large number of persons for human trafficking offences.” APNSW hopes that the focus of the enforcement of the law will be shifted from the policing, arrest and detention of sex workers as “traffickers” to the investigation and prosecution of major traffickers, in line with the recommendations given by the U.S. Department of State in the TIP Report. As a result of these detentions, a number of human rights abuses against sex workers have been reported upon their release. Some of which are mentioned in the TIP report including rape, physical beatings and extortion, all said to have been committed by some police and Ministry of Social Affairs officials. Due to this failed enforcement and lack of trafficking convictions Cambodia has been placed back on the Tier 2 Watch List for trafficking. APNSW and Women’s Network for Unity have advocated strongly for the recognition of this issue and it is with cautious optimism that we welcome the report. It is good to see the US government at last treating seriously the issues that sex workers have raised. Given Secretary Clinton’s commitment to assessing US anti-trafficking efforts and the millions of dollars in anti-trafficking funds committed by the US Department of State to anti-trafficking efforts in Cambodia; it would be useful for the US government to look into why their programs to improve standards have clearly failed. We look forward to working with the Cambodian and US governments to develop programs to address sex workers health and human rights which are based in evidence and rights.



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