Child domestic workers are at high risk of entering the sex industry, due to their vulnerability to sexual abuse, history of debt bondage, and separation from their families, according to a report released June 25 by the International Organization for Migration.
According to the study—which surveyed 1,360 households and drew on interviews with 203 sex workers in Koh Kong and Siem Reap provinces and Sihanoukville municipality—51 percent of sex workers were previously child domestic workers, and nearly a third of that group were victims of rape or attempted rape in their former employers’ households.
Child domestic workers “are [brought up] to make money for their parents from a young age …and to accept forms of abuse and exploitation,” said Eleanor Brown, head researcher for the study. “The wages are so low that a life in sex work seems attractive,” she added.
The study focused on three provinces that are key trafficking transit points, Brown said, adding that the research was not statistically representative of the country, but nonetheless brought specific trends to light.
The vast majority of child domestic workers are female, and nearly a quarter are under the age of 15, the report said, adding that the group works an average of 13.5 hours a day.
MP Joseph, chief technical adviser on the elimination of child labor for the International Labor Organization, said the domestic setting of child labor made it particularly difficult to reform or eliminate.
“The workplace…is inaccessible,” he said. “It is a private home. You can’t send inspectors in to inspect it.”
(Additional reporting by Chhay Channyda)