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Supporting Cambodian Sex Workers' Struggles, June 24 2008

Newsflash! 24 June 2008

Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered a police investigation into the rapes and abuses that the sex workers have been facing in detention. Womens Network for Unity and the other sex worker groups and supporters in Cambodia are now working on helping with these investigations to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The Womens Network for Unity has thanked the Prime Minister- but is still urging him to look at the law itself.

The law itself is an abuse of sex workers’ human rights. Even if the worse abuses are stopped, it is still unacceptable for the law to not discern between sex work and trafficking. Forcing sex workers into detention is still unacceptable. Last Tuesday, as Australians made their mark against the new laws, the campaign of sex workers in Cambodia and the solidarity of supporters around the world, led to the next important step in overturning these laws. The Womens Ministry in Cambodia finally buckled to the domestic and international pressure, and heeded the Prime Minister as demanded the closure of the two main government detention centres, allowing all the sex workers to go home

Mass campaigning led by Womens Network for Unity and supported by other grass roots NGO's built up the critical support that led to intervention by the Prime Minister to order the releases.

Now we need to follow up by pushing for the anti-trafficking law to be reviewed. Thanks to everyone who gave their support to us in this campaign, and those who will support us in the next stage which is to review the law in Cambodia and stop similar laws being passed in other countries! Please consider making your mark by downloading the form letter from the Scarlet Alliance website and sending it off to the Cambodian Ambassador in Australia, Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, UNAIDS and the Womens Network for Unity. Links provided below:

Cambodian Sex Workers Face Anti-Trafficking Violence, Australia Joins Chorus Condemning The Detentions, Violence, Calls For Repeal Of Laws

Supporters including Fiona McLeod SC, SWOP NSW, SWOP ACT, Anti-Slavery Project, and Exeuctive members of Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, outside the Cambodian Embassy in Canberra, on the morning of 24 June 2008

Elena Jeffreys, Scarlet Alliance President, at the Cambodian Embassy on the morning of June 24, 2008

Scarlet Alliance delivering a jointly signed letter to the Cambodian Embassy in June 2008

...Cambodia has recently passed anti-trafficking laws which equate all sex work with trafficking. According to the Women's Network for Unity, "the law was introduced to eliminate trafficking by stamping out the sex industry. Since then brothels, bars, street areas, and karaoke clubs across the country have been closed or gone underground. Hundreds of women have been arrested and imprisoned, or have had to move. Dozens have been raped and beaten by police and prison guards. HIV prevention and care programs have collapsed. This law makes us easier prey for traffickers, and makes it impossible for us to use condoms". Go to the full letter