This chapter discusses how the poor conditions in the red-light districts in Phnom Penh have contributed to the image of a “gruesome” sex industry in Cambodia. Western media reports depict Cambodia as a country where the “sex trade” flourishes, and where the associated AIDS epidemic threatens to result in its “next Killing Fields.” While ideas about sex workers as immoral women persist among many Cambodians, images of sex workers as slaves, commodities, and viruses have come to dominate reports on sex work. These reports portray young rural women, anxious to do anything to provide financial support for their families, have become tricked into a life of debt and virtual slavery. The chapter argues that these views reveal more about the moral attitudes of observers than about the daily lives, struggles, and experiences of the workers themselves.
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