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"Support Cambodian Sex Workers" June 2008

Below is the text from jointly signed letter, delivered to the Cambodian Embassy in late June 2008. If you would like to become a signatory, please download the word version of the letter (right) and send it to the suggested recipients. CC Scarlet Alliance info and we will gladly add your name to the signatories below.

Dear Ambassador

We, the undersigned, are members and supporters of Scarlet Alliance and sex worker rights. It has recently been brought to our attention by the Women's Network for Unity (WNU), a union of sex workers in Cambodia, that new anti-trafficking laws in Cambodia are having diabolical repercussions on the human rights of sex workers. We recommend that the anti-trafficking laws in Cambodia be repealed immediately.

Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association Inc, is the peak body representing sex workers and sex worker organisations in Australia. Formed in 1989, Scarlet Alliance was a founding member of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) and works closely with sex worker groups from countries in the Asia Pacific Region.

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".

The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers also claim that condoms are being used as evidence of sex work and carrying condoms leads to arrest or forced "rehabilitation." Sex workers are scared to carry condoms and to access sexual health services. As a result, the national HIV prevention programs for sex workers have completely broken down.

Criminalising sex work does not result in the abolition of sex work. Instead it creates a dangerous underground sex industry that makes sex workers more vulnerable to corruption and exploitation and less able to access mainstream health and protective services. History has proven that efforts to abolish the sex industry have been attempted many times in many countries and have failed in every case.

It is time that Cambodian sex workers are afforded the same rights, responsibilities and privileges as any other workers. Sex work needs to be recognised as a legitimate form of work and sex workers and their clients' health and safety should not be compromised by ineffective and discriminatory legislation that criminalises people and leaves them vulnerable to corruption, vilification and discrimination.

Sex work is work. Forced labour, exploitation, and trafficking, in any industry, are human rights abuses. We recommend that sex work not be conflated with human trafficking and other human rights abuses.

Sex work should be covered by appropriate domestic industrial rights and health and safety standards. The exploitation of a person, no matter what setting, is a human rights abuse and should be dealt with appropriately. The singling out of sex work as an "exploitive industry" is incorrect and politically dangerous, potentially supportive of repressive policy approaches to sex workers and will increase sex workers' vulnerability to violence, HIV and discrimination.

The collapse of HIV prevention amongst this vulnerable population is a tragedy for sex workers and potentially, a disaster for the general population.

We call for the situation to be urgently addressed by the government of Cambodia and for UNAIDS and other UN agencies to openly declare their support for sex workers human rights and to reject the anti-trafficking laws as a violation of sex workers human rights

The anti-trafficking laws in Cambodia must be repealed immediately.

Yours Faithfully,

Elena Jeffreys, President, on behalf of the Scarlet Alliance Executive

Janelle Fawkes, Chief Executive Officer, Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO)

Sharon O'Reillly Program Coordinator, Resourcing health and Education ( RhED) in the sex industry Victoria, on behalf of the RhED Program.

Queensland Association for Healthy Communities Inc.

Mike Kennedy, Executive Director, Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre, Melbourne, Australia

The AIDS Council of New South Wales

The Sex Workers Outreach Project, New South Wales

Touching Base Inc

Julie Bates, Principal, Urban Realists Planning & Health Consultants, Sydney

Dr Chris Harcourt, Research Officer, Sydney Sexual Health Centre

Dr Rigmor Berg, Social Research Consultant

Laura Bondeson, Sex Worker Project Officer, Tasmania

Likita Marley, Harm Reduction Officer

Seranna Shutt, Sex Worker and Womens Rights Activist

Rachel Wotton, Sex Worker

Alina Thomas, Community Health Consultant and Sex Worker Activist, Tasmania

Marisa Ingleton, Sex Worker Activist, Sydney, NSW

Steven Zanuttini, Civil Liberties Activist, Sydney, NSW

Jenni Gamble, Social Worker, South Australia

Kane Matthews, Private Sex Worker

Leanne Melling Sex Worker Outreach Project, volunteer peer educator, Northern Territory

Lexxie Jury, Sex Worker Outreach Project, peer educator, Australian Capital Territory

Shelle Mulvay, Sex Worker and Peer Support Worker

Ashkara Sands, Sex Worker Activist, Western Australia

Wes Campbell


Meas Kim Heng, Ambassador Royal Embassy of Cambodia 5 Canterbury Crescent Deakin ACT 2600, Email:

Hon Stephen Smith MP Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

Title: Minister for Foreign Affairs; Deputy Leader of the House.

Party: Australian Labor Party

Parliament House Contact PO Box 6022 House of Representatives Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600

Tel: (02) 6277 7500 Fax: (02) 6273 4112


Electorate Office Contact Morley Office: Location: Unit 2 60 Russell Street Morley WA 6062

Postal Address: PO Box 657 Morley WA 6943

Tel: (08) 9375 9855 Fax: (08) 9375 3100

Dr Peter Piot, UNAIDS Executive Director; 20, Avenue Appia CH-1211 Geneva 27 Switzerland Telephone: +41.22.791.3666 Fax: +41.22.791.4187

Women’s Network for Unity, Cambodia #1, Sisowath Quay Sangkat Srah Chork Khan Daun Penh Phnom Phen Cambodia T 855-12-222-171 F 855-23-722-435

Updated 28 June 2008