There are an estimated 261,000 people living in modern slavery in Cambodia (GSI 2018). All of Cambodia's 25 provinces are sources for human trafficking. Cambodian women and girls move from rural areas to cities and tourist destinations where they are subjected to sex trafficking in brothels, beer gardens, massage parlours and salons. Cambodian men form the largest source of demand for children exploited in prostitution, although men from across the world travel to the country to engage in child sex tourism.
Davi was 14 when she began working in a karaoke bar in Cambodia. The job soon was not what Davi was expecting and she was forced into sex work that was violent and dangerous.
When I was 14, I came to Phnom Penh to work as a housemaid in the home of wealthy Cambodians because my parents were poor and they had left home to find work in Thailand. My employers didn’t pay me a salary but gave me two meals per day. Then the husband began to make advances towards me so I ran away. I had no job and no money.
I met a girl working in a Karaoke bar who offered me a job. The job involved sitting with customers and playing CDs for them to sing. But all the customers liked me and tried to touch me. If I objected, they threatened to call the bar owner and demand that I lose my job. They would make derogatory comments saying, “Why can’t we touch you? We have a right to touch you because you are cheap. This is what you are here for.” One customer asked me to go to a guesthouse with him and I refused. But he had a gun which he pointed at me and threatened to shoot my legs if I did not go, so I had no choice. The bar owner never intervened because this was a normal occurrence in these places, it happened all the time. After that it was often like that, I had little choice about who I had to have sex with because they were wealthy or threatened me. I was filled with pain in my heart. It was so hard to bear. Customers often made derogatory comments to me; they did not care if I was crying and if I asked them to stop they would not. If I asked them to wear a condom they said they would rape me. There were customers who pinched and twisted my skin and some hit me. There was nobody willing to help me and I cried alone every night with no one to care about me. I started to think I was crazy. I was often so depressed; I felt I had no worth or value and my life was cheap. I cannot describe the pain.
Since I came to work at Daughters of Cambodia, I feel I am living a different life, like I am a different person. I feel so much better in my life than before.
Narrative provided by Speak 4 Change Foundation