Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Trafficking in virgins increasing

Trafficking in virgins increasing

Trafficking in virgins increasing

THE price of having sex with a virgin is around $400-$600, and it is mostly middle-aged

men who pay in the belief that they will gain potency and long life, according to

ECPAT-Cambodia.

The NGO group, whose name stands for End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Trafficking,

says that networks to collect and keep young girls and women in the sex trade appear

to be on the increase. The networks include armed guards and high officials.

"Presently, according to our investigation, young virgins are kept in secret

rooms of brothels. If a customer needs to see those girls, the owners just ask the

guards to bring them one by one," says ECPAT's annual report for the year up

to April 1996. "Those young girls are just 12 to 15-years-old. Demand is very

easily met - the supply seems endless."

The report says that according to ECPAT's observations, the going rate of $400-$600

for a virgin is based on the "marital cost" of girls.

"The brothel owners told us that $600 is equal to the marital cost of young

girls. So if a customer needs her for a night, the owners are going to charge the

same price."

ECPAT says that sex clients, both local and foreign, know clearly about the cost.

Clients were often aged 40 to 50, and believed that having sex with virgins enhanced

their potency, life and luck.

The report says there are few definite statistics on the numbers of prostitutes and

their customers, but several studies have shown significant growth in the size of

the sex trade. Poverty can force girls into the trade - "Dying of Aids is better

than dying of hunger," is one proverb among prostitutes. Some are sold by their

families.

ECPAT also cites family breakdowns, an erosion of values and insufficient job opportunities

as contributing factors. Meanwhile, a weak legal and policing system, open borders

and poor visa controls also leads to more trafficking.

NGO workers say some traffickers entice girls and women with offers of fictitious

jobs, while others simply kidnap them.

Benoit Duchateau d'Armijon, of the children's NGO Krousar Thmey, says many families

who lose their daughters to traffickers had no-one to turn to try and find them.

They often search for their daughters by themselves. Families may speak to NGOs,

but there is difficulty in circulating and centralizing the information they give.

Children who live on the streets for whatever reason are also at risk of being taken

into prostitution, according to Sebastien Marot from the NGO Friends, which runs

a center for streetchildren.

"The girls who are street children never stay long in the street. They disappear

really fast," he says.

Somaly Mam Legros, vice-president of ECPAT, stresses that once in the brothel, it

is very difficult for girls to get out. "Either some man falls in love with

her and pays for her [to leave]. That is not so frequent. Or once they are no more

useful to the pimp, he lets them go."

In January, a law on the suppression of trafficking humans - with penalties including

10-20 years' imprisonment for pimps and brothel landowners - was passed. But there

is skepticism about how it will be enforced.

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