Sex workers are illegally arrested and detained

(Phnom Penh, July 16, 2010) – The Cambodian government should immediately initiate measures to end violence against sex workers and close the institutions of government, during which are detained the victims illegally and abused, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch called on the Cambodian government also set aside any provisions of the law to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation in 2008, because they encourage harassment and mistreatment by the police.


The 76-page report, “Off the Streets: Arbitrary Detention and Other Abuses against sex workers in Cambodia” is based on more than 90 interviews and group discussions with male and transgender sex workers in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap According to the results are. Sex workers, especially in Phnom Penh, a wide range of abuses including beatings, rape and extortion by officials exposed.

“For too long have the police and other authorities sex workers illegally detained, beaten and sexually abused and robbed of their money and other possessions,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy director of the Asia division at Human Rights Watch. “The Cambodian government should delay a comprehensive independent investigation into the systematic violation of human rights of sex workers to perform and close the facilities in which these people were abused. ”

The police regularly carries out raids in the streets and parks of Phnom Penh and arrested sex workers. The abuses are partly arbitrary and random. Periodically, police and local authorities are, however, also targeting sex workers and other marginalized groups in the population.

Police can abuse sex workers without having to face legal consequences. Sex workers told Human Rights Watch that they were beaten by police with fists, batons and wooden clubs, or beaten with electric batons. In some cases, sex workers detained by police were also sexually abused. All sex workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch had already paid bribes to police officers or have been robbed by policemen.

A Cambodian law to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation from 2008 provides all forms of trafficking, including forced labor offenses. Sections of the law banning the promotion of prostitution and the offering of commercial sex. According to Human Rights Watch said regulations are sometimes abused by police to justify the mistreatment of sex workers. The provisions are worded so ambiguous that they can also be used to provide the political or public support of sex workers by criminalizing human rights groups.

Human Rights Watch called on the Cambodian government to review the impact of the law on human trafficking and sexual exploitation in 2008 and ensure that they are protected with the implementation of new regulations, the human rights of sex workers. For this purpose, the government should work with representatives of sex workers and the United Nations and human rights organizations, especially dealing with the issues of human trafficking and health.

“The Cambodian government must understand that in a climate in which already there is impunity for the police, the exercise of human rights violations by the criminalization is sponsored by prostitutes,” Pearson said. “The government should be gone back to the drawing board and intensively consult with sex workers and other groups before it continues to implement the provisions that are abused by the police to justify abuse. ”

In Phnom Penh, the police on sex workers to the municipal social services department and from there to various NGOs or the public welfare institution Prey Speu. The conditions in Prey Speu are catastrophic. Sex workers, beggars, drug addicts, street children and homeless people who were imprisoned in Prey Speu reported, such as prisoners, including children, staff beaten, raped and abused. Representatives of local human rights organizations on the basis of eyewitness accounts from the fact that 2006-2008 were beaten at least three people, possibly more, to death by guards.

After protests by Cambodian and international human rights organizations in the years 2009 and 2010 began the city’s social services department, most of the apprehended in raids on sex workers have instead of Prey Speu according to the care of NGOs. Nevertheless, since May 2010 at least eight sex workers were detained in Prey Speu. In June 2010, detained in Prey Speu sex workers were locked in their rooms and they could only leave twice a day, to wash in a dirty pond or accompanied by a guard to go to the toilet.

Human Rights Watch called on the Cambodian government, institutions such as Prey Speu, where people are detained illegally, to permanently close. Already in the report “Skin on the Cable” dated January 2010 Human Rights Watch documented horrific abuses of inmates Cambodian drug prisons. The Cambodian government is a special commission called into being to carry out a full and independent inquiry into the abuse and the perpetrators to justice draw. So far, the police and other authorities evade responsibility for the incidents.

“The Cambodian government should prisons such as Prey Speu, where people are detained illegally close, once and forever,” said Pearson. “The prosecution of those who commit these crimes, would make it clear that the mistreatment of sex workers will not be tolerated “.

Efforts to combat human trafficking and the training of the Cambodian police are supported by international donors, notably the U.S., Australia, Japan, the European Union and the United Nations. Human Rights Watch called on donors to reconsider their financial support for the police and the Ministry of Social Affairs, until a full and independent investigation into the allegations is ensured that perpetrators are prosecuted and the social security institutions were closed down. Was even promoted in units such as the special unit to combat human trafficking, training of the international donors – in spite of the intense police training to continue the abuse.

“International donors should not spend their money for the training of police officers who commit abuses, but for action to demand that the Cambodian Government accountable,” Pearson said.

Leave a Reply