BATTAMBANG is not as comfortable with legalizing prostitution as is Phnom Penh according
to the results of public forums debating the issue in both centers.
Representatives from a wide cross-section of the community, including teachers, students,
government and police officials, have been invited to discuss the topic at the forums
organized by the Center for Social Development.
The first was held in Phnom Penh on July 29. At it just over half the participants
voted to legalize the profession, but in Battambang on Wednesday, Sep 1, more than
two thirds of the 100 representatives voted against the idea.
According to Sieng Huy, who has researched and directed the forums, the participants
in Battambang saw the issue not in terms of legality but of management.
She said in the Battambang forum people focused on the Lon Nol and Sihanouk regimes,
where prostitution was tightly regulated and they believed that was the ideal.
Chhay Yeheang, dean of the philosophy faculty at Phnom Penh University, said that
then prostitutes carried ID cards and had regular health checks.
However he said he believed times had changed and it would be very difficult to regain
control of the sex industry because it was now widely dispersed outside brothels
to bars, karaoke shops, massage parlors and even just on the streets.
But Lim Mony, head of the women's section of the human rights group Adhoc, said no
regime could control the industry entirely and keeping it illegal kept a door open
She gave the example of police who extort money or sexual favors from the prostitutes
She said she would like to see the authorities set up places far from town centers
where prostitutes could operate safely.
Chanthol Oung, Executive Director of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC),
said that closing brothels was pointless unless there was a change in society's attitudes.
She said the idea that men are made of gold and any tarnish can be polished off,
while women are like a white cloth that once stained can never be cleaned again,
should be abandoned.
She said if men stopped using prostitutes there would be no industry to be concerned
about: "No need - no product, no buyers - no sellers."