Its clients are influential Cambodian men and other members of Asia's elite who enjoy total impunity from a corrupt justice system. But in the case of the virgin trade, he says, progress is hard. Then she was taken to meet her buyer in an exclusive hotel room. Dara gives me the name of a Cambodian politician who is still in office. The slum's stilted shacks are home to around 1, people, many of whom recycle rubbish as their only source of income.
It is a market sustained by severe poverty and ingrained gender inequality. Brothels in red-light areas housing enslaved child prostitutes, for example, have been almost wiped out over the past decade. The gardens employ miniskirted young women to sell competing brands of Cambodian beer or to work as hostesses and sing karaoke. The man was a police general who frequented the beer garden where Uy worked as a kitchen help, she says. Cambodian parents love their children as much as anyone, says Nget Thy, director of the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children's Rights. We both felt it was better to forget it ever happened. Uy eventually agreed because, in her mind, she saw it as a chance to save Chamnan from becoming drawn into regular sex work. The awful irony of Mam's rapid fall is that she didn't need to lie. She saw more than 50 young women being purchased, "like they were delicious food". He didn't use a condom. When the regime finally dies, she hopes that iniquities such as the virgin trade will die with it. The journalist quickly decided not to get involved. She was feted widely in the media. Often overlooked by more dramatic tales of enslavement in brothels, the trade in virgins is one of the most endemic forms of sexual exploitation in Cambodia. The slum's stilted shacks are home to around 1, people, many of whom recycle rubbish as their only source of income. The pain was very great. Three years ago, when she arrived from the countryside, Uy had a different plan. She wanted to open a hair and beauty salon on proper premises in the Cambodian capital. One evening he asked me if she was a virgin, and said he wanted to buy her. Even so, the moment suggested the lack of shame surrounding the practice and how much men like the politician must take their impunity for granted. When I told him yes, he used even more force. The beer gardens are popular with men looking for virgins. It's such an open secret in Phnom Penh that he is a prolific buyer of virgins that a Cambodian journalist who knows him well offered to introduce me to him. But they are especially dire for women, who earn an average of only 27 cents for every dollar earned by a man , according to the Asian Development Bank. Where to begin unravelling the shadowy, painful layers of Uy and Chamnan's story? It is not the same politician who bought Dara.
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