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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sex tourists seek virgins - report

Sex tourists seek virgins - report

Asex tourism researcher in Cambodia has found that over half the girls sold to "virginity

seekers" in Phnom Penh had a foreigner as their first client, and overall condom

use was as low as five per cent.

French NGO AIDeTouS coordinated four surveys in brothel districts, STD clinics and

care facilities over the last three years. The results were released at a conference

on trafficking, prostitution and AIDs at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom

Penh on June 28.

Frederic Thomas, an economist working for AIDeTouS, said 79 per cent of foreign virginity

seekers were well-organized, mostly Asian sex tourists, and many believed intercourse

with a virgin would rejuvenate them or even cure AIDs.

A survey among prostitutes in Siem Reap found one in four had seen a foreigner for

their first client and 56 per cent reported having sex with at least one tourist

every week.

"The demand from tourists and foreigners to satisfy their fantasies for virgins

or to have sexual intercourse without condoms increases the number of children falling

into prostitution," said Thomas.

An AIDeTouS survey of 25 children working at the notorious Svay Pak brothel district

11km outside Phnom Penh in 2002, found the average age for entering into the commercial

sex trade was 12.9 years for girls and 12.3 years for boys.

Aarti Kapoor, legal advisor for anti-trafficking NGO Afesip, told the conference

that more needs to be done to implement extradition laws for pedophiles and sex tourists

arrested in Cambodia.

Meanwhile the debate over methods and findings of research into the number of prostitutes

and trafficking victims continues, with Thomas Steinfatt releasing "A Critique

of Afesip's Ivory Tower Approach" to research methods on June 26.

Afesip's Aarti Kapoor co-authored a challenge to Steinfatt's 2003 research, which

estimated there were 18,256 prostitutes in Cambodia, of which 2,000 were trafficking

victims, saying the figures were unreliable.

Steinfatt defended the methodology of his study, particularly his use of motodops

as research assistants and criticized what he termed Afesip's "shotgun negative

approach", saying it constituted a personal attack.

The scale of Cambodia's trafficking problem was not quantified in the Trafficking

in Persons (TIP) report released this month by the US Department of State.

Cambodia retained its "Tier Two" status, for countries that do not fully

comply with international standards for the elimination of trafficking but are making

significant efforts to do so.

Cambodia's neighbors, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam were all placed into a new category,

the "Tier Two watch list", for countries with large or increasing numbers

of trafficking victims, which have failed to provide evidence of their efforts to

combat trafficking.

The TIP report praised efforts to step up arrests and prosecutions of traffickers,

but said an ineffectual legal system and endemic corruption hampered the fight against

the trade in humans.

"Cambodian Government officials and their families are reportedly involved in

or profit from trafficking activities," the report says.

The annual report noted the arrest of three Americans who were extradited from Cambodia

for crimes of child-sex tourism contained in the PROTECT ACT legislation, passed

last year to deal with sexual offences committed abroad.

On April 26, Michael Lewis Clark became the first US citizen sentenced under the

new law, but has appealed his eight year US jail term. He was arrested and jailed

for one year in Cambodia based on the testimony of boys aged ten and 13, before being

deported.

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