(Lost Childhood series)
(Some people pay to steal innocence... they call it "tourism")
In a country where the average income in Cambodia is still just around one US dollar the price of innocence can be dictated by the next American or European pervert ready to shell out to rape a child. It is a crime in Cambodia to have sex with children and yet the trafficking of children continues at relatively the same rate as it did a decade ago. This shows that despite government actions (as minimal as they might be) are doing little to deter the sexual predators that flock to Cambodia each year. The countries reputation as a "sex tourism" mainstay has been only growing as the cost of travel becomes cheaper to the affluent Western world.
"Illegal Sex Trade Valued at $511 Million," Emma Poole - Calgary Herald, 23 August 2001
A steady flow of cash from the pockets of pedophiles (both domestic and foreign) drives the industry in Phnom Penh and the rest of Cambodia. The steady increase in unlawful tourism has only driven the profits of pimps and traffickers up over the last decade. Starting children at younger and younger ages, the pimps advertise their victims as virgins so as to draw in Cambodian men and Western johns. The suppliers of the victims simply have to go out into the country or into one of the many "poorer" neighborhoods of Phnom Penh to purchase young girls. This is made easier since, like so much of Asia, girls are considered less valuable than their brothers. Yet even boys are not spared victimization. In Cambodia everything seems to be up for sale.
"There are about 17,000 prostitutes in Phnom Penh, of whom about 30 % are estimated to be under 18 years of age." - Children of Cambodia
According to Children of Cambodia the average price a person pays to have sex with a child in Cambodia is 150 US dollars. This number is of course driven down by the sale of children to local pedophiles and the sale of children to pedophiles from Thailand and other neighboring countries. The main boost to this average comes from tourists arriving in Phnom Penh from the United States and Europe. However with the rise of the Chinese economy the increase in sexual tourism by Chinese pedophiles in Cambodia also increases the number of victims and the price at which they are sold.
"Every year for the past 5 years (and probably beyond this,) the percentage of reported child trafficking victims has hovered at around 75% of all victims. Equally as alarming are the rape statistics: roughly 72% of reported rape victims are children." As Reported By MalbaJayne
But despite the rise in sexual tourism the true reason for the ever increasing number of children being sold into sexual exploitation in Cambodia could be found within Cambodia itself.
“70% of all brothel patrons are native to Cambodia.” As Reported By Eleanor Herzog
The continued attitudes and customary beliefs of Cambodian society still make it common for Cambodian men to seek out sexual encounters with rather young girls. As is found in other areas of Asia the local belief that having sex with a virgin can cure ailments and bring fortune to the male is still common in Cambodia. Despite some other people's opinions, this traditional belief in the modern age however is pedophilia. And it may very well be one of the major driving factors in the continued growth of an illegal industry within a remarkably impoverished nation such as Cambodia.
It is for this reason that despite international efforts to end the sex tourism industry that child prostitution continues to hold its place in Cambodian society. If Cambodia is not willing or remains unable to combat both the criminals who produce the victims and the government officials who support them, the crime will continue almost indefinitely. Traditional beliefs about sexual practices such as pedophilia must be undercut and removed from society at large. And future generations of Cambodians must be given back their childhoods if Cambodia is to ever have hope for its future in the modern world.
The initial steps as a world community to combat this crime is to first put both political and economic pressure upon Cambodia to pass comprehensive reforms that would hold public officials accountable for their profiting off this industry. The United Nations must be allowed and willing to engage Cambodia aggressively in an effort to reduce and rapidly end child labor and prostitution. Education must be stressed and supported by international efforts, especially by nations who benefit from trade with Cambodia.
Cambodia itself however will ultimately be responsible for creating the positive changes within its government to make any of this possible. The legacy of dictatorship and genocide must be overcome through a constant effort to weed out corruption. But most importantly, Cambodia's government must must be forced toward a realization that without healthy and full-filling childhoods for the children of Cambodia the country itself will never prosper.
(Note: not all listed.)
Asia Times Online