(Part of the Lost Childhood series)
(Sex Slaves in Cambodia, Ages Unknown)
It is the personal opinion of the author of this article that people who trade in or purchase the sexual services of anyone under the age of consent should face the possibility of the death penalty. With that said, please read the rest of this article.
In Cambodia children as young as 6 years old can be readily purchased by the hour by sexual deviants from the moment they step off the plane. If the pedophile knows where to look, has done his/her research online, they can often spot the signs of a pimp. These peddlers of innocents lost will openly start up the conversation if the sex tourist gives any sign that they are interested. Boys, girls... nothing is sacred in this perverted industry. No age is off limits. If the child can walk, there is a pervert ready to take advantage of Cambodia's most neglected commodity.
The organization "Save the Children" estimates that as many as 50 to 100 thousand children and young women are subject to sexual slavery within Cambodia. This number is most likely far lower than the actual number of sexual slaves within the country. Mainly due to the growing sex tourism industry within Southeast Asia. A region where sexual predators can spend half the money as they would back home on prostitutes half the age.
The growing crime has become the subject of intense international scrutiny. However with many outside governments unwilling to part with the notion of "national sovereignty" when dealing with blatant human rights violations... the trade continues to grow disproportionately to the rest of the economy. Instead of imposing the same sanctions we would apply for genocide upon a country the rest of the world has decided to look the other way when dealing with human trafficking and child prostitution.
"The Svay Pak brothel area outside Phnom Penh, where children are exploited in the sex trade, continues to operate despite numerous attempts by police to close it down." United States State Department Human Trafficking Report 2012.
When sexual slavery within Cambodia becomes less profitable for the Cambodian pimps the children are often sent across borders into Vietnam, Thailand, and even over waters to Malaysia. The exploitation of Cambodian children has become such a problem that tourist visiting Cambodia for nonsexual reasons can easily spot government sponsored posters, commercials, and billboards warning about the very issue. Yet the actual prosecution of pedophiles traveling to Cambodia for sex is rare.
In the sparse cases of criminal prosecution of "johns" the Cambodian government has shown that it has the ability to be tough on sexual predators. Yet in other cases, such as Dr. James D'Agostino, it also appears that prosecutors in Cambodia are able to achieve convictions without much evidence only so that the government can save face with the outside world. The actual ability of the government in Phnom Penh to achieve consistency in attacking this criminal enterprise is often seen as weak if not impossible to gauge.
"Within the country, Cambodian and ethnic Vietnamese women and girls are trafficked from rural areas to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Poipet, Koh Kong, and Sihanoukville for commercial sexual exploitation. The sale of virgin girls continues to be a serious problem in Cambodia." United States State Department Human Trafficking Report 2012.
Poverty continues to be the driving factor in human trafficking throughout Southeast Asia. Being one of the poorest countries, only ahead of Laos, in the region has left Cambodians exceptionally vulnerable to this crime. Parents in Cambodia often are known to sell their children to traffickers under the promise of a better life by the predators. Other children are often put out to the streets to beg where they are lured or kidnapped and put into the sex trade.
A more disgusting part of the sex trade in Cambodia is fueled by the Khmer belief that having sex with a virgin will somehow endow the man with virility and other desirable masculine traits. This superstition continues to drive a disturbing number of Cambodian men to the sex trade. There they can readily find girls from the age 6 and up. And for most of these homegrown pedophiles the "virgin" is often a young girl who has been sold time and time again.
(Victim of Cambodia's "Sex Tourism" Industry)
No child should ever have to live this way. No human being should ever be bought or sold. This is not a simple matter of human rights. This is the fight to end the trade that spawned our understanding of the most fundamental of all human rights... Freedom.
All people, of all ages, has the right from their first breath to a life free of fear. We are born into this life with the desire for it. We are born with the passion to preserve it. We are born to need it. Freedom is not a right we can deny to one and grant to another. As long as even one of us is left in slavery, none of us are truly free.
In this spirit the world should offer Cambodia clear cut ways to end this crime against humanity.
First Cambodia needs to investigate and prosecute government officials complicit in human trafficking. It is painfully obvious when one looks at the "red light" districts of Southeast Asia that police are more than willing to look the other way. For this reason it should be standard practice of all state and federal authorities that any officer, politician, or judge willing to look the other way should face harsher sentences than even the "johns" themselves. We are not talking about just prostitutes and johns anyway. We are talking about modern day slavery.
As for the pimps, Cambodia should create a registry with every arrest in which the slave driver is recorded. It is my own opinion that there is theoretically no sentence to harsh for these wretched souls. But in reality Cambodia should strengthen the sentences already in place while confiscating the property and money which the slave holder has made from this trade. The property should be sold and the money should be given those now responsible for the safety of the exploited children.
As for the "johns"... again, it is my personal view that death is as befitting a punishment as any for these individuals. In reality Cambodia should use the most extreme punishment their penal system has to offer. The sentence should be as long as they government is willing to make it. And the johns from other countries should be sent to their country of origin only if the crime is punished harsher than it would be within Cambodia.
We can not afford to take baby steps in our fight to end human trafficking. We spent far to long arguing the last time we fought slavery. It is time now to end this form of it. It is time that we show those who would exploit our next generation that we as a world community stand united in our desire to rid ourselves of slavery in all forms. Especially when it devastates our children... our hope... our innocents.