Is there much child prostitution in Cambodia? As a tourist, you probably won’t witness obvious child prostitution. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You too can actively protect and improve the situation of children by staying alert. If you witness a situation where a child could be vulnerable or is in danger, please report it immediately.
Why is there child prostitution in Cambodia?
- After 20 years of conflict and unrest, the social and familial fabric of Cambodia has weakened and this strain has put an increasing number of children in vulnerable situations.
- Cambodia has a very young population (51% under the age of 18).
- Poverty is rampant and many children are forced into prostitution as a source of income, with no choice but to disregard their own personal health and well-being.
- Cambodia suffers from an exaggerated image of lawlessness that attracts pedophiles and fuels the situation.
Who are the offenders?
- Offenders are from all origins:
- Western Countries
- The country’s inflated reputation of lawlessness and cheap commercial sex attracts various sexual offenders:
- Some people plan their travel around child sex.
- Some are not careful and choose to believe the age a child tells them (even when it is an obvious lie)
- Some people lose perspective and seize the “opportunity.”
Who are the victims?
- Young girls are forced into the sex trade following a family crisis. After a first abuse, they are seen as “lost” by their family and society and continue to work as prostitutes.
- Boys, who live on the street in urban centers, have also been sexually exploited by pedophiles in recent years.
- For a street urchin, the precarious day-to-day living conditions make them see foreigners as a potential source of income. They can then fall victim of pedophiles who coerce them into having sexual intercourse.
Who are the pimps?
- Some disreputable operators advertise “adult only” tours. Even if they don’t give immediate access to children, they still fuel a chain of exploitation that puts children at high risk.
- While traveling through Cambodia, you might meet people who will offer to take you to prostitutes, drugs and also children.
- Some people who exploit working children (sellers, shoe shiners, etc.) will coerce children into prostitution to get more money from them.
- Children who have been abused can encourage their peers into prostitution and end up becoming pimps to survive.
Read more: How to Enjoy your Stay in Cambodia
Where does it happen?
- Child prostitution can be formal (in closed brothels), or informal (on the streets).
Note: Please do not try to gather information on this subject. Police and Law enforcement agencies are monitoring the situation closely.
What are the consequences?
- Children involved in prostitution are highly vulnerable to diseases and have a very high rate of HIV infection (30%)
- See also: (Sexually Abused Children)
What is being done?
- Cambodia has signed international treaties and has laws effectively protecting its children. Child abuse carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison. (See Laws) In Cambodia, the legal term for sexual abuse of children is debauchery.
- An increasing number of local authorities are thoroughly monitoring areas and are trained to take quick and effective action when cases are reported.
- In the recent years, numerous offenders have been arrested and prosecuted for debauchery in Cambodia.
- The Cambodian judicial system is becoming increasingly efficient and sensitive to the issue of sexual abuse of children by sentencing offenders and allowing zero opportunity for legal corruption.
- The international community is actively involved in the protection of Cambodian children; many countries have extra-territoriality laws that are being effectively implemented (See Laws)
- Psychological and social support is provided to sexually abused children to break the cycle of exploitation and re-integrate them into society (See The Project)
- Respect the dignity of Cambodian culture, its people and in particular its children; in return, Cambodians will make your trip unforgettable.
- Avoid seeking sexual favors for money: please enjoy the beauty of Cambodia without preying on its youth.
- Travel with your eyes wide open: don’t turn a blind eye to a situation where a child might be at risk – please report it immediately.
- If you see it, say it! When witnessing a situation where a child is put in a vulnerable or potential abusive situation, contact:
- 24 Hour Police Hotline: 023 720 555
You can also contact Friends International at: 012 662 926
Friends International will carefully monitor any cases that are reported to us. We guarantee complete anonymity, respect of human rights and strict adherence to legal procedure. Please note that we always handle legal complaints by referring them to the appropriate authorities after verifying their validity.
About Child Prostitution: Sexually Abused Children
Sexual abuse is: “Contacts or interactions between a child and an adult when the child is being used for sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or another person when the perpetrator or another person is in a position of power or control over the victim.” (source: National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect)
Sexual abuse of children has dire consequences for the child, the family, and the country.
- Long-term effects of sexual abuse on a child include:
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or anxiety
- depression and suicide
- sexual anxiety and disorders
- poor body image and low self-esteem
- substance abuse, self-mutilation, and other self-punishment behaviors
- Long-term effects on the family include:
- Intrafamilial abuse leads to violence and divorce, resulting in a lack of resources for the mother—putting the rest of the family at risk.
- Extrafamilial abuse leads to social exclusion, rupture of familial bounds, anxiety, and violence; increasing the risk of sexual exploitation
- When tolerated, sexual abuse of children can have harsh consequences on a whole country: tolerated abuse can result in the loss of cultural identity and values; a tarnished reputation in the media; a decrease in the number of tourists; unintentional incentives for criminal immigrants; and social troubles.
This post is part of a holistic project (belong to Friends-International) to eliminate the factors facilitating the spread of sexual abuse/pedophilia in the Cambodian tourism industry.
Friends-International operate the following activites:
- Developing a Child Safe network of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, and internet cafes.
- Training Cambodians, especially those involved in the tourist industry, to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse.
- Implementing an Awareness/publicity campaign against sexual abuse of children.
- Training of Cambodian actors (children, social workers, law enforcement agents, local authorities).
- Protecting, educating and rehabilitating child victims of sexual abuse, through collaboration with our local partners.
- Encouraging street children to access services and find alternatives to street life and its dangers.
Who Friends-International Are?
Friends-International is a non-political, non-religious organization that was established in 1994 to support to street children, their families and their community worldwide. The objective of Friends-International is to support street children enabling them to become independent and productive adults in their society.
Friends-International develops projects for street children and supports organizations to initiate and develop their own.
In 1994, Friends-International founded Mith Samlanh/Friends in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Since 1999, Friends-International has been increasingly involved in supporting and training organizations that work with street children in the region and that advocate the issue of street children on the international scene.
Friends International is an organization based in Cambodia, with offices in France, the USA, Switzerland and Germany.
More information: www.friends-international.org
This project was made possible thanks to the support of the British Embassy in Phnom Penh and in collaboration with the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism.
You would like to refer a child to a center:
#215, Street 13 (next to the National Museum)
Tel: 023 426 748 (8:00 am to 12 noon / 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm)
Tel: 012 296 609 (24-hours a day)
4, Street 257, Phnom Penh
023 366 184
Young women with children:
#9, Street 163, Phnom Penh
14, Street 310, Phnom Penh