“The good way is the law can be implemented but not to be affected the HIV /AIDS Prevention” said by H.E. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Council of ministry during the closing 3rd National AIDS Conference ceremony, Phnom Penh, September 12 2008. He continues “NAA has to conduct the meeting with all NGOs and stakeholders to find out the solutions/ suggestion for protecting HIV/AIDS epidemic during the implementation of Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Law and submitting the suggestion to Minister of Interior for ministerial executive committee”. He expected the conference will further discuss the issue and find a solution to it.
We should be reminded that on March 3rd 2008, Government of Cambodia passed the law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, to comply with the United States policy on human trafficking. In that month Police arrested many Entertainment workers and closed brothels across the country especially Phnom Penh.
The Entertainment worker arrested were sent to rehabilitation centers by force, where they were held in communal cells with no bathrooms or running water, hardly receive food or water, some were beaten and raped, and were denied Anti-retroviral drug treatment for HIV positive women. All the activities are against the 100% condom use administrative that signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on 14 October 1999.
The trafficking of women and children into sexual slavery is undeniably a gross abuse of human rights.
Sex trafficking is one forms of trafficking. Men, women and children are also trafficked routinely for purposes of domestic work and manual labor. This exposes Entertainment workers to an increased risk HIV infection and denies them their human rights.
According the arresting entertainment workers, more institutions and vulnerable group stand up to advocate to government to create a guideline for implement this law. Many individual in particularly Dr. Tia Phalla, from National AIDS Authority and designer of Cambodia’s 100% CUP, Mr. Tony Listle, Country Representative UNAIDS, Cambodia, Dr. Kem Ley, Executive Director of HACC, Mrs. Dy Many Program officer, ActionAid Cambodia, and Mrs. Keo Tha, WNU, Mrs. Pen Mony, Adviser of CCW, and other advocator (individual) advocated against the new law.
UN theme group, Donor and Civil Society in Cambodia jointly issued position Statement on 5th May 2008, “Protecting Cambodia’s HIV/AIDS Gains: The Public Health Effects of the Kingdom of Cambodia’s Trafficking Suppression Campaign and Law on the Suppression of Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation”. This statement was prepared in consultation of the civil society and donor. Statement stated “We support the Kingdom of Cambodia’s anti-trafficking efforts and zero tolerance for trafficking of vulnerable persons and sexual exploitation. However, recent anti-trafficking efforts being implemented in Cambodia are having serious negative public health consequences and threaten Cambodia’s remarkable success in cutting HIV prevalence from 2% in 1998 to 0.9% in 2007.
A strong advocacy by individuals and involvement of prominent HIV/AIDS organizations paved the way for political support and created enabling environment for doing advocacy against the law by other smaller organization and networks. Series of advocacy work was done at national, regional and international level. The March protest, demonstration, Video documentary, press release, and speech at international forum were the main advocacy tool. Newspaper, radio, television, mobile SMS and internet were used to spread the message and get support from the general public.
On June 4 2008, the Women’s Network for Unity (WNU), Cambodian Prostitutes Union (CPU) and Cambodian Network for Men’s and Women’s Development (CMNWD)- Cambodia’s 3 grass-roots Entertainment worker Networks come together to have an open day of Action to stop Entertainment worker raids and call for the repeal of the Law by saying, “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.” The Open Day of Action also had strong support from the Asia Pacific Network for Entertainment workers (APNSW). WNU also wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for his intervention to protect Entertainment workers from the human rights abuses encouraged by the law, and those abuses that are a direct result of its enforcement. The open day of action and letter to the prime minister found wider coverage in all the national, international media. Three video documentaries were made on issue related to law by WNU and HACC and widely spread on the internet.Civil Society representatives held meeting with National Aids Authority (NAA) to present CSO statement on Entertainment worker issue and to discuss future course of action.
A workshop was organized at World Vision Cambodia office to discuss Entertainment worker issue.During the United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York, 10-11 June 2008, Entertainment workers and rights advocates from around the world condemned police brutality against Entertainment workers in a protest at the Permanent Mission of the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations. Civil society representative from Cambodia also raised the Entertainment worker issue at the civil society pre consultation meeting for New York high level meeting held at Bangkok Thialand on 10-11 May 2008.
On June 16, 2008, some Entertainment workers gathered at a Buddhist temple to protest against a police crackdown on prostitution and prayed for the government to halt a crackdown. A A Video documentary “Caught between the Tiger and the Crocodile” made to advocate the human right violation of the Cambodian Entertainment worker was shown at the Mexico AIDS Conference 2008 to draw attention from global and regional policy makers.
A round table discussion was held on September 1st 2008 “VIOLATION AGAINST ENTERTAINMENT WORKER” by HACC, CCW, WNU and Cambodian Alliance for Combating HIV/AIDS (CACHA) with financial support from ActionAid Cambodia, CAFOD and CCODP. During the Round table discussion, 10 minutes video documentary was shown to participants; Issue / problem were discussed by guest speakers, 120 CDs were distributed to NGOs and relevant institutions. The video documentary will broadcast on the TV.
On September 4 2008, National Assembly invited key stakeholder for a half day meeting to discuss the law and Entertainment worker human right Violation. At the meeting Video documentary made about Entertainment worker Human right Violation was shown to law maker and senior staff of the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Justice. At the end of the meeting law maker accepted the facts and evidence and promised to further investigate the issue.
On September 19 2008, NAA discussed draft Strategic Plan for the Entertainment worker
After months of advocacy for the time being at least the Police have released Entertainment worker arrested by them, some Brothels have re-open, 100% CUP have started again, Peer educator and NGO worker can reach Entertainment worker, NAA and CSO find way to work together to reach the Entertainment worker