Prostitution in Cambodia

During my stay in Cambodia, specifically Phnom Penh, I painfully witnessed the prostitution of minors. When we first arrived to this city, Nick (my housemate) and I went to what we thought was a cheap guesthouse. The gentleman sitting outside, who sounded very American, was surrounded by a few Cambodian women and had told us the room was $8 USD for the night.

For some of you, you might think, “Well the room was $8 for the night, doesn’t that sound sketchy?” The fact of the matter is, we’ve stayed at other hotels and guesthouses that were equally affordable, so we didn’t have any red flags go up just yet. We figured it was only for one night and we could really save some money.

After we dropped our stuff off in the room to walk around the city, the same gentleman sitting outside said if walking through the bar to get upstairs to the hotel room was too much, to just walk around to the side door.  I feel a bit naive, but in all honesty, I thought it was weird for him to mention something like that and didn’t think much of it.

Once we stopped at a cafe several blocks away, Nick noticed that an older gentleman was sitting at a table with a really young Cambodian girl. I believe it was at this moment when Nick realized what was going on and told me about it. He realized before me that the guesthouse we were staying at was most likely used for prostitution.

We decided to stop being so cheap and spend money on a legit hotel (a whopping $27 for a place more upscale). After the cafe we had to go back to the guesthouse to get our stuff. Once we arrived and walked through the front door, there was a group of Cambodian girls (who weren’t there when we first arrived earlier in the day) in skimpy outfits just waiting there welcoming us with huge smiles. A piece of me died right then and there and I wanted to cry. I saw old men, most likely Americans and Europeans, flirting and touching the girls. We called them “pickle salesman” and used this term whenever we saw an old man with a young Cambodian woman.

It breaks my heart to know that these beautiful, young girls (probably 12) are in these situations. It also disgusts me to know that there are people out there that would pay to sleep with these girls. I found this article online from the The Guardian Weekly in which a young girl shares her story about how she became a prostitute in Phnom Penh.

If you’d like more information on this topic, you can learn more at UNICEF.


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