Virginity is for Sale in Cambodia

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We recently spent a week in Siem Reap, learning the scary truth that virginity is for sale in Cambodia.

Chet Mon

Meet Chet Mon – Her mother sold her virginity to a foreign businessman when she was 12 years old.

She spent her early childhood working in the streets, collecting bottles and cans, selling postcards, and collecting scraps of firewood to sell at the market. She did whatever she could do to help her family survive. She, like many other children in Cambodia, was never able to attend school. She never learned to read or write. She had no clothes and no shoes to wear in the muddy, trash-filled slums of Cambodia. Her family was stuck in the cycle of illiteracy, poverty, and human trafficking under a government that takes care of the rich and ignores the poor. Her father was dead and her mother had six kids to feed on her own, and one was already dead of malnutrition.

Why is virginity for sale in CambodiaHer virginity was sold to a wealthy foreign businessman for $150.00. He took her to a hotel room, locked her up, and continually abused and raped her for seven straight days. When he was done using her small, malnourished, immature, 12-year-old body, he threw her out in the street and left town. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident; it happens all the time, even today.

 

 

 

What if someone offered you enough money to feed your family for years? Just think – $150.00 US dollars is 607,500 Cambodian dollars. Would you sacrifice one child for the sake of the other six?

Even though her childhood was stolen,  and her virginity sold, she has no ill will, no hate, no anger… which amazes me. In Cambodia, your virginity being sold, prostitution, sex, violence, and death are normal ways of life; ways to survive.

In Cambodia, they have a saying – “Men are gold and women are cloth.” If gold gets dirty, you can polish it and clean it up, and it will be shiny again. If cloth gets dirty, well, it’s dirty and can never be clean again. Women are cloth to be used and discarded without a second thought.

Chet Mon was on her own at 12 with no education and no resources. At age 12, she did the only thing she knew how to do – become a prostitute. She worked in brothels and eventually became pregnant with a daughter of her own. In Cambodia, you can have sex without a condom if you just pay $1.00 more; remember, $1.00 is 4000.00 Cambodian dollars. Many of the girls offer this “service” even though AIDS and pregnancy run rampant. Too many girls in Cambodia end up in the streets and brothels, and this will continue if something is not done to change it!

Chet Mon eventually became the mistress of a powerful brothel owner and had two more illegitimate daughters. Her “boyfriend”  has a life and family of his own but wanted Chet Mon for abusive sex at his beck and call. Instead of protecting her and helping her, he often showed up drunk. He would come into her one-room shack that she shares with her three daughters, drunk, to beat and rape her at 4 a.m. Sadly, there are no police, no protection, or anyone who cares; she is a woman; she is cloth and disposable. How does an illiterate prostitute with three daughters end the cycle of madness?

Now her daughters run the streets without shoes, clothes, or medical care. They cannot afford to go to school. Chet Mon has no way to break the cycle. There is no one to ask for help… until now.

28-somnang_shadow“New Hope Cambodia” is trying to break the cycle prostitution, violence, illiteracy and women selling their virginity. I spent the day with the amazing people of this program and met the founder who grew up much like many of the families he now vows to protect. Sot Kemsour was a poor village boy who found a way to educate himself against all odds. Once he reached adulthood, and was fortunate enough to learn to read and write, he purchased his own tuk tuk, started his own business, and married his wife; however, the nagging remembrance of the plight of his people led him to sell his tuk tuk business and start “New Hope Cambodia” – a free school for all who want to attend. Not only is this a school but they offer free medical care and medicine.

New Hope Cambodia

Handmade Wooden Pens made by the students at New Hope

 

They teach vocational training like woodworking, tourism, and restaurant training. They sponsor families with food and money to help break the cycle of violence, sex, and illiteracy. They find sponsors to help send kids to school and eventually to college. They house families of domestic violence. They put water filters in the streets of the slums for the people. The only rule for families who want to be part of the New Hope Legacy – no drugs, no prostitution, and your children must attend school. Education of the Cambodia people and its women are the only ways to break the cycle.

07-DSC_0155We met Chet Mon and her daughters through New Hope. She was brave enough to ask for help so her daughters could break the cycle. Chet Mon is now our family – her daughters are our daughters, her tears are our tears, and her plight is our plight.

They live in a one-room tin shack with no plumbing, no bathroom as we know it, and the streets are filled with trash, but her daughters are now attending school, they have clothes and shoes, and they smile. They made me smile and realize how lucky we are to have met them. We asked them what they needed, how we could help, and this was their list. Imagine such small things that can help change someone’s life: Two straw floor mats for beds; a tarp to put over the roof to stop the rain from leaking into their home; two mosquito nets to help sleep at night without the worry of dengue fever; and some rice to eat.

We sponsor Chet Mon and her family for $40.00 per month. It is amazing that with such a small amount of money we are able to help change the lives and future of an entire family.

05-DSC_0153I handed her a blue tarp to cover her house so she and the girls could stay dry. While the girls giggled and unpacked blankets and sleeping mats, Chet Mon hugged me, and with huge tears in her proud eyes she whispered to me, “Thank you. Thank you so much.” Honestly, I wanted to thank her for being strong, for asking for help, for not selling her children, for just surviving, and for being an amazing woman who can still smile.

 

08-DSC_0156I think of her every night when I go to sleep in my bed with my roof, pillow, and mattress. I wonder what I would have done if I had been born in Cambodia. Would I have been as strong as Chet Mon? Would you?

 

 

I have created a donations page where all proceeds received through my blog go directly to New Hope Cambodia. If you have a spare few dollars, anything helps, please help these families change for the better! We are hoping to reach a goal of $10,000 US dollars to help the program open their new public school.

Click here to Donate for New Hope Cambodia

Click here to donate for New Hope Cambodia

 

 

 

 

 

You can donate, send books, shoes, clothes, and medicine. If you are in Cambodia, stop by and see the school and the people, and have lunch in their training restaurant. You will be glad that you did.

If you would like more information on New Hope, to donate, sponsor a family, work with the school, or volunteer opportunities, please go the website and contact them. They are the most amazing group of people I have ever met – http://www.newhopecambodia.com. I want to send a special thank you to Ron Carter who spent his day showing us all the wonderful accomplishments, projects, and people who make New Hope function on a daily basis! Big thank you to Cheryl Elliot who met us at 7:45 on a Saturday morning to take us to see the girls before we left town! Of course, a big thank you to the founder, Mr. Sot Kemsour, who found time in his busy schedule of changing the world to sit, talk, and have lunch with us!  

I also want to thank Brian and Allan from Backpacking Bond, some of my fave guys. Without their story I would have never met Chet Mon and the New Hope Organization! Please stop by and visit their blog – they have some great stories to tell!

Please be advised – this story has been published with the permission of all those involved. Although it is sensitive content, this information must get out. 

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AF badgeThis post is also written for Anna’s Friends Blog, connecting women around the world. Please click to visit!

 

– Stacey

 

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53 Comments

  • Reply September 2, 2014

    Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    Stacey, what a moving post - I felt so emotional reading it and so saddened to hear the plight that so many women go through in Cambodia. It's only through these incredibly powerful posts like this one you've written that more people will become aware and be able to do more and contribute what they can.
  • Reply August 23, 2014

    fcortezhector

    It's so sad to read that things like this still happens in plan 2014. However it's amazing to find out that there are also amazing people who are trying to make it stop. I'll gladly make a contribution and would love to get to know more about the organization if I'm ever around Cambodia. Good work guys! Thank you!
  • Reply August 21, 2014

    Elaine

    Such a heartbreaking post. Cambodia is an incredible place with incredible people and it's hard to align that to all the hardships that have/are happening. Thanks for sharing.
  • Reply August 21, 2014

    Marie-Carmen

    Thank you for sharing this, it's hard to read but needs to be known ! Those awful situations are too often forgotten and Cambodia has got a terrible history on those type of problems. The prostitution there is terrible, and those fake orphanage too are just terrible. It's good to see that you can actually do something! Thanks for the link too! I will make sure to have a look at it!
  • Reply August 20, 2014

    alliblair

    What an incredibly heartbreaking tale. Despite all the hardships the people of Cambodia have faced and continue to face daily, they are still so strong and determined. I witnessed that firsthand during my trip there this February. Thank you for sharing this story with us and I'm glad there is a community in place to go towards helping such families.
  • Wow, that's a powerful story. I hate hearing things like this, but think it's necessary. So many of us grow up not hearing these things and then are shocked to realize it happens all the time. Thank you for sharing this touching story! :)
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you for reading - yes it was even tough to write and heartbreaking to learn about - but I agree these stories need to be told!
  • What a powerful article. I cannot imaging being put in a place where you have to sacrifice one for well-being of the others. $150 doesn't seem like a lot of money either. I visited Cambodia when I was a teen, not much older that these girls on the street, to work with building a school. Cambodia has and always will have a special place in my heart. You've inspired me to look into this organization. Thanks so much for sharing!
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you so much for reading - I really hope you will check them out they are currently buildng the first only free school for students in Cambodia - I have a donate button or you can donate directly through their site or can also travel and volunteer to help build the school, teach many many things they need help with! thank you again!
  • Reply July 24, 2014

    Sergio

    As a father of a baby of 20 months....absolutely disgusting.
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      This is why we need to tell the stories and show that the women are trying to change and the government wont help so outsiders need to help - it is about education - thank you for reading.
  • Reply July 23, 2014

    Christa Thompson

    We need more people like Sot Kemsour. My Sister went on a missions trip to the Philippines and unfortunately such is the same there as well. Fortunately the camp over there where she stayed has also set up a school and is proactively combating and deterring sex trafficking. Thank you for this post, the world needs much more awareness and many more to rise up and do something to contribute in making a change.
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you for reading Christa! I agree we need many more people like Kemsour. This is the same type of project as your sister went on - helping to build free schools to deter sex trafficking and to educate the women of Cambodia! Great program I hope more people will take notice and try to hel this organization change the lives of the women in Cambodia.
  • Reply July 23, 2014

    Motimala

    Hello there! Such a touching article. It is so surprising that in this modern age women are still considered as nothing. Chet Mon is an inspiration to all. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you for reading - it was a quite a surprise for us to hear about this as well - That is why I felt the need to write about it! Chet Mon is an inspiration and I hope this program will find and help many more woemen in Cambodia.
  • This was so heartbreaking to read, Stacey. Thank you for sharing Chet Mon's story with us and for spreading the word. What a brave lady to survive through such an ordeal and yet have the courage to live on. It's so great to know that organizations exist to help her and the plight of the Cambodians. I'll be sure to donate.
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      I am so glad you stopped by and thank you for reading and for donating - such an amazing place and I agree Chet Mon is so brave - I am not sure I would have the ability to do what she has done!
  • We have been to Cambodia three times, and did not know about this until I read your post. It is heartbreaking! I don`t think most most tourists that visit Cambodia know about this, so it is very important to get the word out so more people can support organizations like New Hope and more women can get help and support. Thanks for sharing this!
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you for reading - yes I agree, most tourist do not know this side of Cambodia, it is not publicized. Sadly many are just annoyed with the kids in the streets and do not realize that without selling post cards, they wont eat and the girls can and will easily be sold if they dont bring in money for the family. Thank you for your support I hope next time you go you will stop by New Hope and have lunch in their resturant!
  • Reply July 21, 2014

    elaine schoch

    Wow. Such an amazing and powerful story...thanks for sharing it. Will make a donation today.
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you so much for donating - and for reading the plight of the women in Camodia! Your donation will go to a great casue and will be so appreciated! Thank you for helping to spread the word! :)
  • Reply July 21, 2014

    My Inner Chick

    --I just watched a documentary about this same thing, but hearing it first hand breaks my heart in half. It's hard to believe that a business man, or any man, could do such an atrocious thing. I am utterly appalled and discussed. Surely, they will go strait to hell. --I shall pass this on. Education is Power. Thank you. PS. I am thrilled that Chet Mon is making a difference. It's takes one person...then more...to change the world.
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you so much for reading - it is really heartbreaking I honestly was so sad while we were there - the men who do this are sickening and sadly many families feel they have no choice - they need to be educated and to get the help to the families in need! Agree Education is Power and it can change the world!
  • Reply July 21, 2014

    Bente Vold Klausen

    This was heartbeaking to read and yet I know it happens not only in Cambodia but in so many countries.
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Yes, it does happen all over the world Eudcation and awareness are key to changing it! As travelers I think it is our responsibility to spread the word and try to evoke change! thank you for reading!
  • That's terrible what they do to the kids at such an early age. Thanks for sharing such a heartbreaking story and relaying it to us to hopefully help some of these poor families. I will definitely help out with a donation.
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you very much for a donation and for reading! I hope you will share the story and pass along the plight of the women and children in Cambodia!!!
  • This was heartbreaking to read, but also very powerful. Chet Mon is so courageous not just because she reached out for help, but especially because she is now sharing her story with the world through New Hope and your blog. Thank you so much for sharing this touching post!
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      She is an amazing woman and to see her smile and have no hate or angre is even more amazing, I am not sure I could do that - she rocks and thank you for reading and for spreading the word about New Hope!
  • What a sad story and there are just so many heartbreaking stories in Cambodia and similar impoverished countries like this. We were just in Cambodia earlier this year. It is great that there appears to be a lot of relief, education, health, and human rights organizations working in Cambodia and hopefully they can bring about some changes.
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Heartbreaking is right! I have to say that sadly most of the human rights organizations are tied by the government and the money gets to the people - I like New Hope becasue it is not just taking relief money and padding its pockets - it is actually helping and changing this on the ground - to me this is huge. The correuption in Cambodia is widespread! thank you for reading! :)
  • This is such a heartbreaking story! But also one so full of hope. It's so nice to hear that there are good people in this world who are doing their best to change the lives of others. And I too, am realizing how lucky I am to be born where I am and receive education. Thanks so much for sharing this.
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      We are very lucky to have been born in other countries where women are valued! thank you for reading and for spreading the word on New Hope and the plight of the Cambodia women and children!
  • Reply July 20, 2014

    Katie

    This is such a thought-provoking and emotional article. I can't imagine having to make any of the decisions those families have to make. I feel so grateful for the opportunities I've been given, and hopeful that places like New Hope can make a difference and break the cycle. Thanks for sharing, I'm so glad my eyes have been opened to the daily tragedies of Cambodia.
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      I so agree, I am not sure what I would do if faced with sacrificing one child, to save another - it would kill me and haunt me forever. I was so horrified to hear the stories, but so happy to meet the New Hope organization! Thank you or reading and spreading the word!
  • Reply July 20, 2014

    TammyOnTheMove

    I lived in Cambodia for two years and worked on human rights issues just like these. I still campaign for these issues in Cambodia, even though I have now left the country, as the many personal storirs I have come across touch me so much. I am familiar with New Hope's work. Thank you for sharing this story and for raising much needed funds. I wish all tourists would become as active as you have!
    • Reply July 26, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you so much for reading - 2 yeas, it would have killed me I think. The heartbreak and sadness is really disturbing to me - Cheers to you for helping and living there and working on these issues first hand! I think as travelers it is our duty to spread awareness and help those countries and people in need! :)
  • First time visiting your blog, stopping over via Sunday Traveler. Wow, I'm glad someone took an initiative to make things better for women and kids in Cambodia, I hope you guys surpass your donation goal! :)
    • Reply July 20, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you for reading - I really appreciate it and I hope we exceed our goal too! I hope we can help to begin to change the lives of women in Cambodia!
  • God, what a powerful story. Absolutely heartbreaking to think of a little girl losing her innocence like this, but sadly it happens in so many poverty-stricken countries. My sister who is adopted from Calcutta, India has a very similar story. I have never written about it (and won't unless she gives me permission to) but these are the stories that everyone needs to know about.
    • Reply July 20, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you for reading - yes it is such a sensitive subject that honestly no one wants to talk about and its hard to get the story out! Chet Mon gave me her permission as did New Hope to share the story - but its still very hard to tell! You are so right it happens in many places!
  • Reply July 20, 2014

    jan

    Chet Mon is a true hero. To survive her horrible experiences and be brave enough to be able to make a better life for her daughters - so that her daughters will not have to go through the horror she did. Cambodia certainly has problems, yet the people are so gentle.
  • Reply July 20, 2014

    Sand In My Suitcase

    It is very sad how much of the world lives in pain and hardship. Your sponsorship of Chet Mon and her family is touching...
    • Reply July 20, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Yes we were really shocked at the stories and honestly so lucky to have been born in a different world! Thank you for reading!
    • Reply July 20, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Thank you so much for reading - hopefully we can begin to change things for women in Cambodia!
  • Reply July 20, 2014

    Brianna

    What a very sobering post that makes me realize just how lucky I am to be born both when and where I was as a woman.
    • Reply July 20, 2014

      BasketsLife

      Yes I thought the same thing - how lucky that I was born where I was as a woman - thank you for reading!
  • What a post! I am sobbing, and even more grateful for my life than I was before starting this. i am so glad that an organisation like this is there to help her and others. I am off now to donate. Thanks for sharing this with #SundayTraveler today xx
    • Reply July 20, 2014

      Stacey Veikalas

      Hey thank you so much for reading and for helping! It was a quite and expeirence to meet and understand the people of Cambodia! :) Luv #SundayTraveler
  • Reply July 19, 2014

    Bronwyn Joy

    Truly heartbreaking what some families go through.
    • Reply July 20, 2014

      Stacey Veikalas

      Thank you for reading - yes just heartbreaking words cannot really describe it!
  • Reply July 18, 2014

    Jackie De Burca

    Wow Stacey, I am sitting here with tears in my eyes and feeling so very silly for some of the rubbish I worry about. This is an amazing article. Chet Mon is truly beautiful, and I have so much admiration for how she has retained her inner beauty and spirit through all of this. I really hope lots of people can help the New Hope Cambodia.
    • Reply July 19, 2014

      Stacey Veikalas

      Hi Jackie ~ thank you so much for reading and caring about the plight the people in Cambodia. Sadly CHet Mon and her family are only one of thousands of families in the same situation! I hope many people will help as well! thank you again for reading I really appreciate it! :)

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