Officials from the Ministry of Justice, the UN Children’s Fund and other aid agencies concluded a two-day conference on sexual exploitation Thursday with calls for new laws they say will close loopholes and prevent traffickers from escaping justice.
“The current concepts are very vague. Nobody knows their meaning,” Tokyo-based attorney Yoichi Yamada, who drafted the legislation, said Thursday.
The proposed new law defines “specifically” such terms as “sexual exploitation” and “debauchery,” as well as expanding the definition of trafficking to include those sold into forced labor or street begging. These new definitions will keep traffickers from dodging the law, proponents say.
The law—even if passed—is just a first step, said Chanthol Oung, Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center executive director. It still doesn’t give those charged with prostitution the right to counsel or the right to translators.
And no law addresses the poverty that sucks people, especially young women and girls, into the flesh trade to begin with, Chanthol Oung said.
“It’s for girls because the state doesn’t give them support, so they have to survive first,” she said.
Although the conference was a follow-up from a similar meeting two years ago, activists Thursday admitted recent scandals have loomed over the proceedings.
Last month, a Phnom Penh judge convicted of illegal immigration 10 Vietnamese women and girls who had been kidnapped or sold into the sex trade. The judge ordered them deported, but their arrest was enough to trigger a chorus of ridicule on Cambodia’s judicial system.
Earlier this week, police raided more brothels, rescuing 17 young women and girls and promising this time to deport illegal aliens without the glare of a public trial.
These and other cases have served as a wake-up call for anti-trafficking activists and the proposed law is a step away from Cambodia’s chaos, Ministry of Justice Secretary of State Suy Nou said.
“Through this draft, we’ll have enough…to implement the law,” Suy Nou said.