Subject: FW: Cambodian Group
From: Cornman, Helen (HCornman@path-dc.org)
Date: Fri Nov 19 1999 - 04:48:37 EST
>>Phnom Penh Post, September 17 - 30, 1999
>>Sex worker demands rights and recognition
>>A member of the Sex Workers Union of Toul Kork, Dina Chan, gave this
>>speech to the First National Conference on Gender and Development in
>>Cambodia, held in Phnom Penh Sep 7-9.
>>I CAME here today as a woman, a Khmer woman. I came here today to tell
>>you my story, in the hope that after you listen to me you can understand
>>my situation and the situation of thousands of Khmer women and other
>>women around the world.
>>It is very difficult for me to come here and speak to you; but I am
>>doing this because I want you to listen, to me the real person; and I
>>want you to remember me and what I say to you today when you are in your
>>offices talking about policies and strategies that affect me and my
>>I want you to remember we are not "problems" we are not animals, we are
>>not viruses, we are not garbage.
>>We are flesh, skin and bones, we have a heart, and we have feelings, we
>>are a sister to someone, a daughter, a granddaughter. We are people, we
>>are women and we want to be treated with respect, dignity and we want
>>rights like the rest of you enjoy.
>>I was trafficked, I was raped, beaten, and forced to accept men. I was
>>humiliated and forced to be an object so men, yes men, could take their
>>pleasure, I brought profit to many and brought pleasure to others. And
>>for myself I brought shame, pain and humiliation.
>>But worst of all I receive demeaning comments from you: you discriminate
>>against me, you give yourselves a job because of me and you are busy
>>thinking about the best way to protect the community from me.
>>The police come to Toul Kork almost every day. They always have a reason
>>to come, but they come more frequently before festivals like Pchum Ben,
>>because we are an easy target to extract money from.
>>In a public forum the chief of these police stands up and states "We do
>>not arrest the girls": lies and more lies. They arrest us and take our
>>money, our jewelry, sometimes even our few possessions we have in our
>>room like our bed covers.
>>If we cannot pay then they detain us for a day or two, they give us no
>>water. When they are convinced we simply have no money to pay they take
>>us to another brothel and sell us to a new maebon (pimp), usually for
>>US$100 for one girl. Then we become indebted once again and have to pay
>>off that debt to the new maebon.
>>This is trafficking. The police, yes, the police sell us for another
>>cycle of slavery. Do you think it is in their interests to see my
>>occupation decriminalized? Of course not: then they lose their share of
>>In one day we pay almost 15,000 riel in bribes to the district police,
>>to the municipal authorities and the local authorities. Then another
>>group of police come and arrest us. If we do not run and hide we are
>>re-sold to slavery.
>>Your solution is to ask these people to protect us. Think again. They
>>live off our blood. Money is too important to everyone, money and more
>>money. It is not enough to eat: people demand more because they want
>>I come from a poor family; they sent me to study at a cultural school in
>>Phnom Penh. I was living with a family but I could not contribute to my
>>living, so they helped me find a job in a nearby hotel washing dishes.
>>This hotel had many sex workers. But I just washed dishes and went to
>>One night a man followed me when I was on my way home and raped me. I
>>was only 17 years of age. You cannot imagine how I felt and what impact
>>this had on me. But after that, I was lured to becoming a sex worker
>>under false promises.
>>I was sent to Stung Treng; I was beaten when I refused to accept men.
>>Shortly after I was taken to Stung Treng a man came to pay for me to go
>>with him. He paid my maebon.
>>He took me to the pig slaughter house where he worked and locked me in a
>>dirty smelly cell. Then he came back with six other men. They all, one
>>by one, raped me; one man raped me twice. After a whole night of gang
>>rape I was faint with pain.
>>When the morning came I heard the workers preparing to start their work.
>>I heard the pigs being pushed into the pens, they were screaming. I knew
>>what that feeling was like: I was no better than the pigs to these men;
>>they could have killed me. Something inside me did die, and I will never
>>be the same.
>>I am 24 years old and my life has been like this since 1993. I did not
>>know the Khmer Rouge years but I have heard the stories of suffering.
>>People say they were slaves.
>>Compared to my life for the last five years I think I and my sisters
>>have suffered and are suffering more than you have. I know starvation, I
>>know slavery, I know being forced to work all day. But I also know
>>physical violation and torture every day, I know discrimination and
>>hatred from my country-people, I know not being wanted and accepted from
>>my society, the society that put me in this condition. I know fear, I
>>feel it every day, even now that I dare speak my life is in danger.
>>This is a crime, but no one is punished. I fought the Khmer Rouge, I was
>>a soldier in Phnom Pddei, fighting to protect you from the Khmer Rouge
>>and risking my life.
>>I fought for the freedom of the Cambodian people, this is what the
>>commander told us we were to do and I was proud I was fighting for
>>freedom. I fought for your freedom - only to become enslaved and abused
>>After all these years I now work as a sex worker. I also run a union to
>>unite sex workers to fight for basic rights and for freedom. We bring
>>our voices to forums like this to educate people like you, with the hope
>>you can learn from us. Many of my sisters are scared to join our
>>struggle because they live in constant fear of abuse and threats.
>>Some of you think that I am bad because I choose to remain a sex worker.
>>My answer to those people is: I think your society, my society, my
>>motherland Cambodia, is bad because it does not give girls like me
>>choices; choices that I see are better for me.
>>I think it is bad that my country allows men to rape young women like me
>>and my sisters and go unpunished. I think it is bad that my society lets
>>men seek and demand the services of women like me. I think it is
>>criminal that we are enslaved to make money for the powerful.
>>I think it is bad that my family are so poor and getting poorer because
>>they can not survive as farmers with little resources which are getting
>>smaller because more powerful people move them off their land.
>>I think it is bad the police treat me and my sisters like we are
>>criminals but those who exploit us and take our dignity, our money and
>>sometimes our lives live in freedom, enjoying their lives with their
>>families. Because why? Because they have a powerful relative, because
>>they have money.
>>Is this right? Is this justice? My sisters and I we do not create the
>>demand, we are the objects; the demand comes from the men, the men come
>>We are cheated, deceived, trafficked, humiliated and tortured. Why?
>>Because men want us and we bring money to the powerful. But we are the
>>You give us AIDS; when we are no longer profitable you leave us to die,
>>but we do not die in peace: you point your finger and you blame us.
>>You, the development organizations, give us condoms and teach us all the
>>time about AIDS. We do not want your words, we do not want your
>>judgment, we do not want you to tell us what is better for us. We know
>>about AIDs; we watch our sisters die from the disease.
>>Ask us if we have the power to demand condom use from our clients. Look
>>at me: you see a woman, but my boss sees dollars. An extra payment to my
>>boss and the client does not wear a condom. If I protest I receive a
>>beating. If I die tomorrow no one cares: there are many other girls who
>>will be tricked and trafficked like me, because we feed many people.
>>I do not want to go to your shelter and learn to sew so you can get me
>>work in a factory. This is not what I want. If I tell you that you will
>>call me a srei koit (prostitute). But those words are easy for you
>>because you have easy solutions to difficult problems you do not
>>understand, and you do not understand because you do not listen.
>>My life has become this way now; for me there is no turning back, so let
>>me continue to practice my occupation, but recognize my occupation and
>>give me my rights, so I am protected and I can have power to demand
>>I am a post Khmer Rouge child
>>But was a slave
>>I was forced to work against my choice
>>My body is tortured
>>I am full of pain
>>I am not a citizen
>>I am not a person
>>You see me as a virus
>>I am invisible
>>Your eyes do not see me
>>You hate me
>>You blame me
>>Some of you pity me
>>I do not want your pity
>>I do not want your charity
>>I want my rights
>>Not your lies and abuse
>>1. Formulation of legislation that protects us sex workers, so we can
>>profit 100% from our work.
>>2. Formulate legislation that those who exploit us and feed from us are
>>eliminated and arrested, and cannot operate.
>>3. Recognition of our work as a legitimate occupation: sex work is work.
>>4. End to police harassment, abuse and violence.
>>5. Human rights for sex workers.
>>6. Legalize sex work so we can have power to protect ourselves and use
>>condoms 100% of the time.
>>7. Legalizing sex work will minimize trafficking because people can no
>>longer profit from the sex industry.
>>8. If we have power and control we can protect the young children who
>>are brought to the brothels. We can help in the fight to protect the
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2a22 : Sun Nov 21 1999 - 20:09:56 EST