JULY, 2008

July 7, 2008



By María Suárez & Margaret Thompson

FIRE -- Madrid, Spain


Mam received a standing ovation for her plenary speech

Listen to Somaly
Mam's speech

We are urging the Women’s World Congress, UNIFEM and the Complutense University to issue a call to the Cambodian Government to help locate and rescue the daughter of an activist against human trafficking kidnapped in June 1st in Cambodia.


Somaly Mam, a well known Cambodian activist against trafficking of women denounced today  the

 recent kidnapping of her colleague’s 23-year-old daughter, Shokny Chhun on June 1st in Cambodia, presumably to be taken to a brothel and forced into prostitution. Shokny's mother Sophia is the right hand support of Mam in the struggle of their organization Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire, and the Somaly Mam Foundation in working against such trafficking.  Mam's own 14-year-old daughter was kidnapped in 2006 and raped, most likely in retaliation for her mother's work.  She was later rescued.


"For a few minutes of pleasure, you kill me.  And if you don't actually kill me, you kill me inside, which [in some ways is] more horrible."  (quote from 6-year-old girl who has HIV/AIDS from being forced into prostitution as a 5-year-old, mentioned by Somaly Mam in her talk).

photo:  anonymous
Cambodian girl



Mam denounced this recent kidnapping in her speech at the opening plenary session of the 2008 Women's Worlds Congress from July 3-8, 2008 in Madrid, Spain. About 3,000 most women from over 100 countries have registered for the event organized by the Worldwide Organization for Women's Studies (WOWS).  The conference has been held every three years since 1981 in a variety of countries, for a total of 10 conferences.

Mam, who was born in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia, described several factors that contribute to sexual abuse and trafficking in her country and region, including high poverty rates, escalating HIV/AIDS, corruption, and cultural sex roles that dictate that women and girls should not say no to authority figures or to their families. 


Mam noted that ever younger girls are more vulnerable to sexual abuse because there is a belief that having sex with a virgin will bring good luck, make men's skin whiter, and protect against HIV/AIDS.  She described a 6-year-old girl who was infected with HIV last year and is dying, who asked Mam to bring her voice to the Congress and say to men, "For a few minutes of pleasure, you kill me, and if you don't actually kill me, you kill me inside which is [in some ways] more horrible." 


Many young girls including Mam are sold by family members or husbands to brothels or gangs, and are then "violated again and again."  Mam's grandfather sold her several times as a young girl to be a sex slave and prostitute, and she was raped, beaten and tortured.  She later witnessed a good friend being killed by her pimp. 


Mam was able to escape and at age 30 began became a spokeswoman for women and children tortured in the brothels of Cambodia. She created the AFESIP (Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire) a non-governmental organization NGO in 1997 in Cambodia to free and help to socially reintegrate people who are victims of trafficking. Despite threats against her, Somaly Mam has been able to help thousands of young girls and teenagers who were coerced into prostitution. In 1998 she received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Awards for International Cooperation, in the presence of Queen Sofia of Spain.


The Somaly Mam Foundation was created in 2007 as a  nonprofit organization dedicated to combatting the global sex slave trade through the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of the victims and through raising global awareness on the issue. 




# # #

For more information about anti-sex trafficking efforts, go to: somaly.org

For more information contact FIRE at: oficina@radiofeminista.net
FIRE webpage: www.radiofeminista.net.