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Caught between the tiger and the crocodile

Cambodian Sex Worker groups and the APNSW (Asian Pacific Network of Sex Workers) are figthing against for two very abusive systems. The first problem is there are many violations against their 100% Condom Use program. The second problem is relatively new: Cambodia has just recently introduced a new anti-trafficking law which makes all sex work illegal, and where sex workers can be sent for mandatory rehabilitation.
The following film shows the human rights abuses in both approaches.
Watch more videos made by sex workers at SEXWORKERSPRESENT. This ongoing video advocacy project became possible with the support of Open Society Institute and in association with WITNESS Video Advocacy Institute.

The transcript of the video:

Caught Between the Tiger and the Crocodile is an APNSW film, supported by a grant from the Open Society Institute Foundation and in association with WITNESS Video Advocacy Institute.
Sex workers in Cambodia have been fighting abuses within the country’s 100% Condom Use Program since it started. In early 2008, a new law against human trafficking was passed in Cambodia, making all sex work illegal. Now there are new types of repression as brothels are closed and sex workers are arrested and forced into rehabilitation centres. The response of the UN organisations and most international NGOs working on HIV has been to support the law but in a way that allows the 100% Condom Use Program to continue. Sex workers reject both the 100% Condom Use Program and the new anti-trafficking law. This is the story of the abuses they have faced under both systems, and why Cambodian sex workers are stuck between the tiger and the crocodile.

(Caption Reads: Dilemma Caught Between the Tiger and the Crocodile)

(Chartini Slamah, an APNSW coordinator in KL, Malaysia says says) If 100%... if you talk about condoms, yes? Why are condoms still being used as evidence to trap the sex workers or to charge the sex workers? This is still happening in many countries in Asia.

(Caption) The 100% Condom Use Program started in Thailand and was exported by WHO to other Asian countries. Although the Thai Governments says that the program ended in 1997, WHO still uses the Thai program as a success story. Sex workers see it very differently.

(Bo Siriporn: Out-reach team leader; SWING Pattaya Sex Worker Project) Some police are still using old laws and curfews against sex workers [eventhough] these laws do not exist anymore. Police arrest female sex workers, MSM and transgenders who carry condoms. The police search pockets and purses. If they find condoms, you will be arrested, just because you have condoms. So how is it possible to have a 100% Condom Use Program when you have police in some areas using condoms as the evidence for arrests?

(Pom: ex-Sex Work Project Manager; Empower, Measai, Chiang Rai, Thailand) The so-called 100% [Condom Use Program] was never encouraged for everyone equally, not for housewives or others but only directed to[ward] sex workers. So, all the other people in villages think only sex workers use condoms. Condoms are not recognised or promoted for their own use, for disease prevention, or birth control and only become a source of stigma for [the] perceived selling of sex.

(Banner) 100% CONDOM PROGRAMS = 100% LIES, DECEPTION & CORRUPTION – International network of sex work Projects

(Caption) In 1999, Cambodia started an HIV program for sex workers called the 100% Condom Use Program. The program included police registration of sex workers and compulsory STI testing.
If sex workers had an STI, it was deemed that their brothel was not enforcing condom use, and police were able to issue warnings or close down the brothel.

(Caption) This is the park around Wat Phnom in central Phnom Penh. This [park] [has] been [a] street working areas for sex workers for many years.

(Lady yellow sweater) I have been arrested in the park when the police saw I had condom[s]. It’s so easy for them to hassle and call you a whore when you have a condom. One [police officer] pulled my hand into their car and I asked what I did wrong? “Nothing” he said. But they wanted to take me. But when I did not want to, he took my watch to keep, let me go, then walked over to other sex workers. The police come to arrest people here every day, I’m so scared. I am poor, I have to support my mother. So when I hear them call me a whore, I am very upset.

(Man in a shirt) Police often ask us, “Why you distribute condoms here?” We say that it’s to reduce STDs. Then they say we’re not allowed to give condoms to the girl[s].

(Lady white t-shirt) There are many motor bikes and people who travel along here, stopping to see what is happening. I’m shouting, “We’re no thieves, why are we arrested?” The police shout back, “You’re a prostitute. It’s illegal.” I ask[ed] the police back: “Why do you say we’re prostitutes?” The police answer[ed], “Because you have condom[s].” I said, “What makes having a condom illegal?” “How about the public note from the government broadcast on TV urging our 100% Condom Use [Program]?” What is illegal? There is no law against us, [for the police] to arrest us like a convict.

(backdrop: Greater Involvement of Police and Army) Giving the police more powers to control the sex industry just leads to new kinds of police abuses…

(David Low, an independent HIV consultant working in Asia for over 10 years) In Cambodia, instead of testing the clients, or rather using the client’s STI [status] as an indication of unsafe sex in a brothel, the different approach was taken where they tested the sex workers. So there was, in Cambodia, a requirement that all sex workers - all registered sex workers - would attend an STI clinic once a month. And that was a mandatory requirement - to have a mandatory HIV test. So, that meant that in some of the locations that we looked at, maybe only 50% of the sex workers were registered. The whole monitoring mechanism was flawed. The program logic sounds all very neat and sensible but the reality of the world – and particularly the reality of the world of sex work – is that basically it does not work because there are too many internal flaws in the logic.

(Caption) Under the new anti-trafficking law in Cambodia, sex workers are subject to compulsory rehabilitation centres. These centres are supposed to provide retraining for sex workers to find other employment, but in reality there in no retraining and the centres are little more than prisons.

Interviewer: You told them you are [HIV] positive but they did not care?
Interviewee: Right
Interviewer: Then what happened after you told them that you got HIV and needed treatment?
Interviewee: My family paid money to get me out. I told them [I] had HIV and they had no medicine at the rehabilitation centre. The director told staff there that I should be released but they did not do it... Until they got the money.
Interviewer: You have been on my ARVs for 1 year already?
Interviewee: I went to the public clinic for treatment. The doctor helped me for free at Sangkhom clinic.

(Lady in hat) I got arrested in the park in front of the railway stations. I can’t run fast because I am on AVR treatments… I have no energy but the others ran away. The police took [both] my money and my watch that night. I had about 50, 000 Reils (about USD 14). The police took me to the stations, forced me to [lie] down and gang raped me. The policemen worked there. [There] were six of them. They did not beat me, but raped me one after the other, at the police station. The last one didn’t use a condom, because I only had 5 condoms. I told him I have HIV but he didn’t believe me. He said that if I had HIV that I would have scars on my body… [my skin would be] not so smooth.

(Lady in blue tanktop) I was at the Rehabilitation centre for 4 days. I [spoke] with the others in the room [saying] that we have to break the windows to escape; otherwise we could be beaten to death. I have twice been arrested and detained there, so I thought it would be worse for me. I was over 7 months pregnant during my first arrest. In the centre, we slept, ate, peed and shat in the same room. The women had to clean the room, [and] the men took the shit out. The day we escaped, the guards told us there’d be no more drinking water the next day and not more food to eat. This centre is not ‘rehabilitation’. It is a prison.

(So Southevy; a founder of the sex workers movement in Cambodia) The police also target and arrest transgender people. If anyone has long hair, the police shave their heads. So they only have two choices: In the daytime they have to take off their wigs, then [be] labelled as MSM and [then] at night time they’re transgender again, (to) sell sex for money. I’ve heard many problems from these people. Some were arrested by the police and shocked [with electricity]. Police used electric shocks sticks to shock many of the transgendered in Siem Reap province.

(Group of Ladies) When the police arrest[s] one of us and [if] we [try to help] try helping each other, then the police usually will arrest all of us. They came with electric sticks and guns. If we didn’t get away, they would shock us and put us in a truck. The police really want to stop us from doing sex work. Transgenders like us won’t survive if we don’t do sex work. We are from very far provinces and [are] poor!!

(Lady yellow tanktop) About a month ago, the police came and closed a number of brothels here. Some sex workers are homeless and didn’t know where to go. They are very vulnerable with all the raids. Some are [HIV] positive and illiterate, and can’t find jobs. Closing down brothels is like killing them.

(Meena Seshu; founder of SANGRAM, Sangali Indian and member of UNAIDS Human Rights Working Group) The problem with raids is that you have the people who want to rescue women and children who are in prostitution, using the oppressive arms of the state, the most oppressive arm which is the police, to conduct this rescue operation through a raid. The raid, of course, is conducted under tremendous human rights violations and the community is never ever going to respond to anybody who is brining in the police to rescue them because they do not view that as a rescue. They view that as another oppressive thing that is done to them. So if you really, actually, want to talk about people who do not want to be in sex work, the best strategy is to actually have a conversation with them, have empowered the community such that to create an environment [where] people who do not want to be there can actually say they don’t want to be there and have processes where they can leave and people who want to be there, live there with dignity. If that can just be done, which is a simple thing, generations of [these] oppressive raids have not worked [which have not worked can stop]. We know that.

(Caption) for more information of the anti-trafficking law in Cambodia: www.apnsw.org

If you would like to help in campaigning against this law, contact, apnsw.cambodia@gmail.com

To stop trafficking, decriminalise sex work.

Film & Editing by Dale Kongmont
Executive production: APNSW
Khmer – English translation by Cane, Ros Sokunthy and Ly Pisey
Narrated by Melissa Ditmore
Music & sound design by APNSW
Script consultants: Andrew Hunter, Cheryl Overs and James Wentzy
Footage provided by APNSW
Photos by APNSW and LICADHO

Thank you:
ACTION AID, WAC, OSI, WITNESS, WNU, CNMWD, Urgent Fund for Women’s Human Rights and KORSANG
Special Thanks:
Bebe Loff, Cheryl Overs, Holly Bradford, Karyn Kaplan, Kelly Mathson, Meena Seshu, Rebecca Schleifer, Rosanna Barbero, Sao SoPheap, Sim Socheata and Sam Gregory.

Source: sexworkerpresent at http://blip.tv/file/1159149/