by Shaelyn Saraceni
The value of lives is much less than priceless in Cambodia.
Human trafficking has become a huge problem around the world. A global study put out by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation, principally women and girls. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center defines human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his or her will.”
Though we have many problems with human trafficking here in the US, Cambodia has a huge population of trafficking. According to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 35% of Cambodia's 15,000 prostitutes are children under the age of 16. In Cambodia, it is common for parents to begin training their children in exploitation, selling the children to pimps, or, if they don’t cooperate, having their children stolen as young as 7 years old. Prostitution is another very common trade for women in Cambodia once they become legal adults. Sex becomes legal in Cambodia when girls reach the young age of 16 (they are no longer looked at as minors when it comes to sex with those older than 18), though many would turn a blind eye to those being exploited younger than 16. There are many factors contributing to this problem, but the poverty level is probably the most significant. Poverty took widespread grip in Cambodia in the 1980s after the Khmer Rouge began.
As a little history lesson, the reign of Pol Pot is what set the Khmer Rouge into motion. The Khmer Rouge was the massacre of ⅔ of the Cambodian population due to the agenda the dictator (Pol Pot) set out to accomplish. His mission was to turn the country into an agrarian society, so he killed and imprisoned doctors, lawyers, artists, and teachers. He armed and brainwashed children and farm workers. The Khmer society has not been able to fully regain its strength from poverty and exploitation since this tragedy took place in country.
I had the unique privilege to travel to Cambodia for two weeks and work face-to-face with many survivors of trafficking, exploitation, and poverty in Cambodia. Additionally, I was able to witness the opening ceremony of a new elementary school in a very poor area of the province where their capital city stands, Phnom Penh. The elementary school was funded, built, and opened by AIM.
Agape International Missions (AIM) is a nonprofit organization that is working hard in the country and here in the States to combat sex slavery in Cambodia. They rescue children and women, restore them at safe houses and centers, and reintegrate them back into society through teaching them vocational skills and offering jobs to work making clothes, jewelry, and many other things that are then sold in the States. If you’d like to check out the items sold by AIM (each handmade by a survivor with their name handwritten on the tag of the item), visit this website. All money goes back to funding AIM’s mission, and the women receive pay for their jobs. Make a statement with the items you buy and the gifts you give by shopping to help free slaves and keep them off the streets. To read more about AIM and learn how to get involved today, click this link.
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