Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Court of Women calls for action

Court of Women calls for action

Court of Women calls for action

090807_03
Vichuta Ly of Cambodia’s Legal Service for Children and Women gives expert testimony on Thursday at the Southeast Asia Court of Women on HIV, Human Trafficking and Migration in Bali, Indonesia. A jury of experts urged greater global awareness of the ‘vicous cycle of poverty, violence, trafficking and HIV’.

Experts urge greater global awareness of 'vicious cycle' of poverty, trafficking and HIV.

Bali, Indonesia

A jury of experts on Thursday called for urgent action to break the cycle of poverty, violence, trafficking and HIV that is ruining the lives of countless women, girls and communities in Southeast Asia.

The declaration was made at the culmination of the Southeast Asia Court of Women on HIV, Human Trafficking and Migration in Bali, Indonesia.
"Women's lives in Southeast Asia are dominated by acute inequality and injustice that make them highly vulnerable to various forms of violence, exploitation, trafficking and, subsequently, HIV," the declaration read.

"We, therefore, call upon all the governments, UN Agencies, civil society organisations, the media and the general public to take all possible steps to expeditiously address the vicious cycle of poverty, violence, trafficking and HIV that trap countless women in the region."

Wanta, a young Cambodian woman who refused to be photographed or allow her real name to be published, told the court of how she was now living with HIV as a result of her experience with traffickers. She acknowledged willingly having gone to Malaysia, where she had expected to work in a garment factory, but instead ended up in a brothel, highlighting the dangers all young women face when travelling abroad to work.

Refusing to work, she was raped repeatedly and starved, she said, before being rescued by police following a tip-off from a sympathetic customer.

Wanta was joined by 21 other survivors of trafficking from the region. Most were from poor backgrounds, exposed to exploitation as they tried to find a way out for their families.

Like Wanta, many were left HIV-positive by their experience of being trafficked into sexually exploitative situations, highlighting what experts at the court said was a tangible link between trafficking and the spread of the disease.

"[Women and girls] are trafficked for many different reasons, but overwhelmingly sexual exploitation remains the single major purpose," said Caitlin Wiesen, regional HIV/Aids practice leader and programme coordinator for the UN Development Programme, a co-organiser of the court.

More than 250,000 women and girls are trafficked every year in Southeast Asia - one-third of total global trafficking - according to UN estimates.

The jurors also called for rights-based policies to counter trafficking and prevent further injustices from being heaped on women after experts singled out Cambodia as a country where officials had gotten policy seriously wrong.

Wiesen said anti-trafficking laws passed last year had led to more women selling sex on the street "for fear of police raids in entertainment establishments, which can drive them further underground and further increase their vulnerability to trafficking and HIV infection."

She said the legislation had led to a "significant setback" for the country's 100-percent condom use programme, with a 31-percent reduction in the sale and availability of condoms in entertainment places and a 20-percent decline in women seeking testing and treatment at public clinics.

Vichuta Ly of Cambodia's Legal Service for Children and Women said the country's trafficking legislation needed to be refocused to protect the victims. Appearing as an expert witness, she also called for a better understanding of trafficking to protect those working voluntarily in the sex industry from harassment and prosecution.

MOST VIEWED

  • US to ramp up sanctions after ‘flawed’ national polls

    At a press conference on Wednesday, the US State Department announced that it would expand visa sanctions on the Cambodian officials and individuals it deems responsible for “undermining democracy” in Cambodia. At the briefing, spokesperson Heather Nauert reiterated that the department regarded the July 29 elections

  • Final poll results confirm first single-party Assembly

    IN an unprecedented situation in Cambodian politics, the official results of the July 29 national elections have declared that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will take all 125 seats in the National Assembly on the back of it receiving 76 per cent of the votes. The National

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by

  • Chinese influence to sweep Kingdom?

    Growing Cambodia-China ties have seen the latter’s influence sweep across the Kingdom through increased investments and tourism. The Asian giant has become the leading source of foreign funds in Cambodia, fuelling the construction sector with huge casino and hotel projects. Much of the growth