Our Anti-Exploitation Programs confront the complex issues of human
trafficking and sex slavery in a dark underworld that preys on society’s
most vulnerable women and children. We believe that there is hope in the
midst of the darkness, and are fully committed to responding through
the key areas of prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration.
Sexual exploitation in Cambodia: Why does it happen?
The Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970’s and subsequent civil war into the 1990’s dismantled every part of Cambodian society. However, Cambodian women have faced slavery and sexual abuse even before this devastating era.
There is an old Khmer saying: “Men are like gold and women are white cloth.” When white cloth is stained, it is ruined and worthless, but gold always retains its value.
Civil war, genocide and the subsequent impact of post-traumatic stress have allowed the social fabric of society to unravel. Unresolved anger and pain felt by so many has resulted in extensive domestic violence and an environment where the weakest can be taken advantage of and abused. Frequently, women and children bear the brunt of such circumstances.
Substance abuse and gambling have led many Cambodians, already living in extreme poverty, into further debt. Families become desperate for income and, in the context of trauma, human life has little value. Under such circumstances, children
and young women become very vulnerable.
The family unit was systematically torn apart during the Killing Fields revolution. Trust and close relationships were significantly eroded as children were taught that parents were the enemy. The traumatized children who experienced and survived the revolution are now the parents of today. This has a large impact on the children of these survivors. Parents suffering, untreated, from post-tramatic stress disorder can fail to provide necessary safety for children at risk of being trafficked, and sometimes become desperate enough to sell their own children into situations of exploitation.
The moral vacuum left by the revolution has contributed to the trauma felt across society, leaving the darkest sides of human nature to thrive unchecked. The legal system continues its long process of rebuilding after almost complete destruction. Social services are being reinvented in their entirety while Police, who lived through the trauma of the revolution as children, turn a blind eye to the child abuse of today. There are ultimately very few structures in place for the protection of children.
The AIDS epidemic that followed revolution and genocide has driven men to pursue younger girls for sex as they are less likely to be infected and are more likely to be virgins. There are many Asian myths surrounding virgins, yet much of the demand is based on the perceived power many men feel they will experience by taking a young girl’s virginity.
The vulnerability of Cambodian children is now well-known internationally and attracts scores of predators in the form of wealthy sex tourists and pedophiles. They fly into Cambodia taking full advantage of local poverty, and the lack of criminal accountability adds immeasurably to the suffering.
To service this demand, the buying and selling of young women and children is common and an accepted part of Cambodian society. Sex slavery has become a multi-million dollar industry, and parents are often prepared to take advantage of this by selling their children to earn money. Children feel obligated to follow the wishes of their parents and reluctantly cooperate as they are sold – many are so young that they know no other way. As a result, young women and extremely young girls are sold into slavery and served up to be abused daily by any and all who will pay.
The picture is often overwhelming, yet at Ratanak International
we believe that great hope can be found, even in this darkness.
Since Brian McConaghy began confronting sexual exploitation
in 2004, we have seen evidence that God has, is and will bring redemption to those caught in situations of exploitation and to Cambodia as a whole.
The journey is long and the healing process for victims and communities is not simple. Nonetheless, Ratanak International, working with trusted Christian partners, has developed a response to sexual exploitation through these key areas: Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration.