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January 12, 2021

Trafficker ‘locked girl in room and only let her out to work as prostitute’

A woman who trafficked three girls to Cambodia’s capital for forced prostitution has been put behind bars for seven years.

 

The trafficker preyed on the girls, who were vulnerable, by inviting them to work at her ‘restaurant’ in Phnom Penh and promising them accommodation. But the restaurant was in fact operating as a brothel.

 

The three girls were rescued during a police raid in January this year, and taken to Hope for Justice’s Lighthouse – a safe haven for young victims of sex trafficking, forced labour and forced marriage.

 

Our team supported one of the survivors through the judicial process, helping them to testify against their trafficker at a provincial court. Each of the survivors has been awarded compensation.

 

Maggie Crewes, Hope for Justice’s Cambodia Country Director, said: “The police wanted one of the girls to testify in court and identify the restaurant owner. That was a scary process for her but our staff worked with her to prepare her, and they stayed close to her during the proceedings, which were incredibly difficult for her to face.”

 

Our safeguarding officer responsible for this case said: “Thanks to the collective work of the team, we were able to keep the girls safe and secure justice for them. This is why we do our job!”

 

One of the girls who was tricked into forced prostitution was 15-year-old Sitha*, who was told she would work as an ice-server to earn some money. But one week into her employment last summer, she was led into a room with a bed, beaten by the male customer when she tried to escape, and forced to have sex. She was trapped and exploited in the establishment for six months, during which time she was locked in a room, only allowed to leave to work as a prostitute or go to the toilet, fed leftovers from the restaurant, and given no pay.

 

Following a tip-off, police stormed the establishment in January, handcuffing the owner and rescuing the three girls. One of the police officers said to Sitha during the raid: “It’s okay – we’re here to get you out of here.”

 

The children were transferred to Hope for Justice’s Lighthouse in Phnom Penh within 24 hours, where they received crisis support and aftercare in the days and weeks following their exploitation. Maggie said: “After receiving all the holistic services available at Lighthouse, including trauma counselling and therapy, the girls are starting to feel like they might have a future.”

 

Sitha is now training to become a caterer, and the other two survivors have been reunited with their families.

 

*Name changed to protect identity of survivor

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