Laws and policies the government has enacted to fight crime are hampering efforts to combat public health threats, including HIV/AIDS, and are leading to human rights abuses, speakers at a forum involving civil society and government officials said yesterday.
“We think that the laws cracking down on drug and human trafficking remain problematic because after their enforcement, we see that condom distribution has gone down and sexually transmitted disease is on the rise,” public health expert Kem Ley told the forum. “Service to treat sexually transmitted disease has decreased and sex workers are in danger.”
Health officials identified the 2008 Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, the 2005 Law on the Control of Drugs and the 2010 village and commune safety guidelines as containing articles and points that have led to harmful consequences in terms of public health and human rights.
Kem Ley said the implementation of the village and commune safety policy had encouraged local authorities to rid their villages and communes of drug use and sex trafficking, but certain groups had been victimised.
Sex work is confused with human trafficking, and police crack down harder on sex workers as a result, he said, adding the drug law blurred the lines between users, traffickers and producers.
Ten Borany, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said the forum was too negative.
“After being rescued from brothels, sex workers are treated as victims not criminals, while crackdowns follow a complaint or a report about illegal human detention.”