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Rights of sex workers must be considered

Dear Editor,

I wish to congratulate The Phnom Penh Post for its article "Sex workers face more risks in global downturn", published on May 13, 2009.

The article gives a human face to sex workers whose choice is close to none in terms of finding "reputable and legal jobs", as suggested by the minister for women's affairs.

I recognise the efforts of the government in providing economic alternatives to our women.

But I also strongly believe that the government must also be responsible for the impact the global economic crisis has on women who are in the sex trade because of the great exposure to high risks of exploitation, gender-based violence, the loss of power to negotiate with their clients to use condoms and violations of their human rights.

Sixty thousand young women from the garment sector have been laid off in the past year.

This number alone should ring a very strong alarm bell to the Women's Affairs Ministry that our women are at risk of exploitation, as they are desperate to replace the income they have just lost due to the economic crisis.

It is well-recorded that each garment worker supports at least four other members of her family.

It is unrealistic and irresponsible to simply ask them to return to their land or to wait until the government develops the agricultural sector.

Does the Commerce Ministry have openings to absorb the 60,000 women in its skills training program?

Would they have left their farms if they had a choice to make it in their villages?

We know very well what social stigma female factory workers, women who serve beer or work in the entertainment industry must suffer.

If we recognise the role of women as breadwinners, then we must recognise that women in the sex trade have the same economic value.

They must be protected and have the same rights, and need protection when their human rights are violated.

If the income of the sex workers decreases because of the global crisis, it is our problem as well as theirs.

The impact is manifold because sex workers are also mothers to their own children.

Mu Sochua, MP

Sam Rainsy Party 



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