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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sex, bar workers face risks

Sex, bar workers face risks

121219 06
An Anchor beer promoter serves a customer at a beer garden in Phnom Penh earlier this year. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

A government off-icial said during a UN Development Program workshop on HIV yesterday that sex workers and women working in beer gardens were at the greatest risk of violence and rape, and had a higher chance of testing positive to HIV.

Speaking at the event, org-anised by the UNDP, UN Women and UN Aids, Sy Define, secretary of state of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, announced that the government had included sex-worker protection in its coming national plan.

“Forcing women and child-ren into the sex trade is a violation against women, and increases their chance of getting HIV,” she said. “That is why the government is concerned and has included strategies to eliminate HIV and to protect women in its national planning for 2013 to 2017.”

Define highlighted the plight of beer promoters in a 2010 UN report that showed 38 per cent of beer-garden girls were forced to have sex with clients.  

“We can see that beer-garden girls are still being forced to have sex; they suffer and are exposed to a high risk of HIV. The government is preparing a strategy to protect women from violence,” she said.

Neelanjana Mukhia, an independent consultant for the UNDP, called violence against women “both a cause and a consequence of HIV”.

She said a recent study had found there was correlation between violence against women and the rising number of women living with HIV.

“Actual violence, or the threat of violence, can be a barrier to disclosure, access to service and adherence to treatment,” Mukhia said.

Silja Rajander, an official from UN Women in Cambodia, said 52 per cent of entertainment workers did not use condoms consistently with clients, because that was what clients wanted and they could not persuade them otherwise.

A beer promoter who declined to give her name said  she wanted to work in a beer garden safe from physical or sexual violence.

“We do not have enough knowledge to find any job beside beer promotion,” she said. “Sometimes guests force us to have sex, and we do not know how to deny them.”

Cambodia has set a goal to eliminate HIV transmission among the at-risk segments of the population by 2020.



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