In global discourses about sex work, the image of the 'sex slave' has been influential in constructing the view of women working in the sex industry in developing countries as 'victims'. This paper examines the perpetuation of such discourses through powerful lobbying groups and socially conservative governments. It argues that frameworks that situate women working in the Cambodian sex industry through a singular identity of 'victim' or 'agent' are inadequate in informing our understandings of sex work in the country. Based on ethnographic research and interviews with sex workers in the port city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, this paper questions prevailing stereotypes of 'trafficking victims' and the image of 'defiled' or 'duped' women and girls central to such frameworks. It examines the intricate intertwining of elements of individual choice and coercion in women's lives and illuminates how, in the transition to a market economy, women's choices are constrained by hierarchal structures such as gender, class and socio-cultural obligations and poor employment opportunities.
|Australian Journal of Anthropology, The
|Published - 2007