"At the end, she was in so much pain, I was afraid she had died,” a Cambodian sex buyer recounted to the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre and US-based Prostitution Research & Education in reference to a gang rape in which he had participated.
Gang rape is an increasingly normalised human rights violation in Cambodia, research presented by the CWCC and PR&E yesterday highlighted as part of their campaign to discourage men’s demand for prostitution.
“Sex buyers have negative attitudes toward all women, not only women in prostitution,” PR&E’s Melissa Farley said at yesterday’s presentation.
“We are here to shine a light on these men who buy sex and cause such great harms to women,” Farley said, emphasising that too often the perpetrators of violence against women in prostitution were “invisible”.
Nearly 40 per cent of Cambodian sex buyers interviewed for the research blamed the prevalence of Western pornography in Cambodia for a fascination with gang rape.
“The sex buyers we interviewed described gang rape as an opportunity to relax with their friends,” the three-year research presented by the two groups reads.
For about 83 per cent of men, they were with friends when they first bought sex, and for about 80 per cent of men, sex with a prostitute was their first sexual encounter.
Pok Panhavichetr, executive director of CWCC, said that even though the government and relevant organisations work hard to prevent and reduce sex trafficking by creating laws, it remains a hot issue in Cambodia as a developing country.
“Generally, we always focus on protecting and reducing the number of girls and women embroiled in sex trafficking, but we seem to work less with the men who use the sex service,” Panhavichetr pointed out.
“I say this not to mean we should punish or put the mistake on the men, but this is a natural factor that we all have to do something to reduce sex trafficking,” she added.
Chou Bun Eng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said that the government today does not want to criminalise the perpetrators or victims.
“They [criminalised perpetrators and victims] have to waste time in prison or run away while they could be working for their family or doing something for developing their country,” she said.
However, the research found that for Cambodian men, the most effective deterrents to buying sex included greater criminal penalties or having their names and/or photographs publicised.