Urgent Call to Action! Anti-Trafficking Law in Cambodia

From Andrew Hunter at the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers

Cambodia has recently passed an anti-trafficking law which equates all sex work with trafficking and has led to massive closures of brothels and widespread human rights abuses against sex workers. Sex workers have been forcibly detained in rehabilitation centres where they have been raped and robbed by police and guards. Thousands of women have lost their livelihoods and HIV positive sex workers have great difficulty in accessing ARV’s- both in and outside the detention centres.

Condoms are being used as evidence of sex work and carrying condoms leads to arrest or forced “rehabilitation.” Sex workers are scared to carry condoms and to access STI services. The national HIV prevention programs for sex workers have completely broken down.

On June 4 Women’s Network for Unity, Cambodian Prostitutes Union and Cambodian Network for Men’s and Women’s Development- Cambodia’s 3 grass-roots Sex Worker Networks are coming together with APNSW to have an open day of Action.

WNU have also written to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for his intervention to protect sex workers from the human rights abuses encouraged by this law, and those abuses that are a direct result of it’s enforcement.

The press release is pasted below and the letter to PM Hun Sen is attached.

APNSW calls on all those organisations who support the human rights of sex workers to sign onto these demands by declaring their support for WNU’s call for this situation to be urgently addressed by the government of Cambodia and for UNAIDS and other UN agencies to openly declare their support for sex workers human rights and to reject the anti-trafficking law itself as a violation of sex workers human rights.

“OPEN DAY OF ACTION!”


TO STOP SEX WORKER RAIDS AND CALL FOR THE REPEAL OF THE TRAFFICKING LAW THAT THE CAMBODIAN GOVERNMENT PASSED TO MEET STANDARDS IMPOSED BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT’S TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT

Sex Work Is Work…Defend the Right to Livelihood’

June 04th 2008: The Women’s Network for Unity (WNU), a group of sex workers who work to empower vulnerable women and who are involved in the reduction of the spread of HIV/AIDS, closely collaborating with the Cambodian Prostitutes Union (CPU) and Cambodian Men, Women Network for Development (CMNWD), will organise an “Open Day of Action” to stop sex worker raids and call for the repeal of the “Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation” that the Cambodian Government passed recently, under pressure to comply with the United States policy on human trafficking. The Open Day of Action also has strong support from the Asia Pacific Network for Sex Workers (APNSW).

The law was introduced to eliminate trafficking by stamping out the sex industry. Since then brothels, bars, street areas, and karaoke clubs across the country have been closed or gone underground. Hundreds of women have been arrested and imprisoned, or have had to move. Dozens have been raped and beaten by police and prison guards. HIV prevention and care programs have collapsed. This law makes us easier prey for traffickers, and makes it impossible for us to use condoms.

The negative impact of the law will be shown by sex workers through role play, speech and video evidence of the brutality and misery this new law is causing. There also will be two sex workers from India who will speak about sex workers fight against trafficking, a model of anti-trafficking that respects human rights, is effective and not in conflict with HIV prevention programs. There will be a video about the activities of sex workers in Sonagachi, India, to fight trafficking. The Messenger Band will sing a song on sex workers defending the right to livelihood.

We strongly call for repeal of the law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation and for an end to raids on sex workers.


Don’t be fooled by talk of rescuing ‘sex slaves’ until you have heard our testimonials and seen video evidence of the brutality and misery this new law is causing.


I did not receive the letter attached to the original email. As soon as I get it, I’ll make it available here.

3 Responses

  1. Some anti-trafficking policies seem more focused on persecuting sex workers than stopping human trafficking.

  2. […] For more information, check out the press release at Bound, Not Gagged.   […]

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