A woman trafficked for sexual exploitation in Cambodia is likely to be nearly 20 years old, single and uneducated, according to a new report released this month by the NGO network End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Trafficking in Cambodia.
Until now, information about trafficked women was largely based on anecdotal evidence, said Ecpat Executive Director Chin Chanveasna.
The ECPAT study paints the first large-scale picture of who is being trafficked for sex, he said.
The ECPAT study analyzed 2005 and 2006 data from 63 shelters, referral agencies and legal-aid groups, which is about half of the NGO services in Cambodia that cater to trafficked women, according to Chin Chanveasna.
“The report paints pictures of how countryside girls who are also uneducated are vulnerable, and where in Cambodia trafficking [is the most concentrated] so we and others can take action,” said Hy Phallyka, head of the statistics department of the NGO Acting for Women in Precarious Situations, one of the main contributors to the database.
The report found that most of the females trafficked into the sex trade were Cambodian, at 70 percent, the remainder being ethnically Vietnamese or Chinese.
The average age of a trafficked sex worker was 19.9 years. Almost 15 percent of the sex workers documented in the study were 15 or under.
The education levels mirrored Cambodia’s national trends—31.6 percent were illiterate, and another third had three to five years of formal education.
Having a dead parent appears to make it more likely a female is trafficked into the sex trade, as the rates were much higher than the national average.
Nationally, 6.4 percent of children under 18 have a dead father, and 1.7 percent have a dead mother. Of the studied trafficked women and girls, 25 percent had a dead father and 23 percent had a deceased mother prior to being trafficked.
The main trafficking destinations were Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Koh Kong, the study said.
The 10-page ECPAT questionnaires used UN and Cambodian law definitions as the criteria for determining whether a woman had been trafficked.
ECPAT received from the 63 centers reports about 518 women and girls, defined as females under 18, who had reported being sexually exploited.
Within that pool, ECPAT determined that 179 were trafficked according to their definition, meaning they were recruited, transported, transferred, harbored, received or trapped while being threatened, physically forced, coerced, abducted, deceived, abused, drugged, inebriated, sold or rented.
“This shows that there are not as many trafficking cases as the other NGOs think,” Chin Chanveasna said.
“Now we know on a more concrete basis the realities of what we are dealing with,” he said.
The report did not analyze data from an additional 92 women who were allegedly trafficked for labor because labor exploitation does not fall under ECPAT’s mandate, Chin Chanveasna said.
The goal of the study was to draw on information from Ecpat member organizations to provide concrete numbers and trends to government bodies, NGOs and donors, so they can “channel their resources in the most effective ways,” he added.
The National Taskforce Against Trafficking in Persons just started a similar data collection system.
The new system will compile information from more than 100 government agencies and NGOs, including ECPAT, NTF Data Consultant Sareivouth Tem said during the system launch last week.
(Additional reporting by Chhay Channyda)