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Hope in Darkness: Change in Cambodia

by IJM Institute
Fourteen years old and just a block away from where her family lived, a girl named Mien (God of Justice, Chapter 12, pg. 107) found herself trapped in a brothel. Her life was dictated by the men who purchased her and subjected her to an endless cycle of threats, blackmail, and rape to make a profit. 
In the early 2000s, Mien’s story was hardly unique in Svay Pak, Cambodia. The area was a human trafficking hotspot, particularly popular among pedophiles and sexual tourists who knew that they could travel there to find children as young as six being openly bought and sold. Pimps operated with complete impunity. Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville were also booming with illicit prostitution−in fact, estimates show that, at that time, up to one third of all sex workers in Cambodian brothels were minors.
Ten years later, these numbers have decreased by 73 percent(Read more here). In Cambodia, commercial sexual exploitation of children is now a rarity instead of a phenomenon. 
How did a shift this dramatic happen? Multiple organizations, government officials and international leaders heeded a call to be the voice for the voiceless in Cambodia. They combined their time, their resources, their talents and their strategies to develop a common mission, and to instigate a movement that is still attracting support through prayer and action, worldwide. This movement can be summarized in IJM’s Justice System Transformation Model:
  1. Victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia are being rescued
    IJM and multiple partner organizations have worked alongside the Cambodian National Police’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police Unit to remove victims of trafficking from spaces of oppression, and into safety. 
  2. Criminals in Cambodia are being brought to justice
    Cambodia’s public justice system has overseen the trials and convictions of more than 200 traffickers, pimps and other perpetrators of sex trafficking since 2003. 
  3. Survivors are experiencing restoration.
    Law enforcement officials, churches, social workers and aftercare organizations in Cambodia provide safe homes, trauma counseling, vocational training and other reintegration strategies to survivors so that they can build lives filled with security and joy. 
  4. Cambodia’s justice systems are becoming stronger.
    Collaborative efforts between IJM, other NGOs and the Cambodian government have prepared and equipped the Cambodian police force to respond to human trafficking cases with expertise, understanding and efficacy. Despite a recent history of violence and rampant impunity, the Cambodian government has begun to re-establish its authority and to reclaim its responsibility to the marginalized and vulnerable. 

The Cambodian justice system still has a lot of work to do. Varied levels of training, a scarcity of resources and corruption in particular, continue to be challenges in its fight against sex trafficking and other manifestations of injustice. But the fact remains that, in Cambodia, the world has witnessed real change−stigma has turned into hope, opportunities for new strategies and new battles against injustice in Cambodia have emerged, and true investment in broken systems has proven that justice for the poor is possible. 

Read the rest of Mien’s story of hope in darkness and learn more about her restoration, in God of Justice. You can also learn how to become an advocate of justice yourself. 

  1. Get a sneak peek! Download the first chapter in God of Justice. Share it with at least one person today! Use #mobilizeforjustice when sharing on social media
  2. Not satisfied with just one chapter? Order the book--or a box! InterVarsity Press is offering great deals on both right now by visiting IVPress or Amazon.
  3. Go the extra mile and print out a God of Justice poster for your group study.

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