Breaking the cycle: shifting towards effective education reform to overcome poverty and abate Cambodia's sex industry.

AuthorVo, Janet
PositionIII. History of Relevant Laws and Legislation through V. Conclusion, with footnotes, p. 481-506

    In Cambodia, national legislation and policies exist in cooperation with international obligations. (107) International obligations include regulation of education, sex trafficking, and prostitution. (108) The history of legislation and policies enacted in Cambodia reflect the ongoing attempts and obligations of expanding rights for women and children, while regulating the sex industry. (109)

    1. Protecting Women and Children

      1. International Obligations

        Cambodia is a party to various international human rights treaties that monitor the sexual exploitation of women and children. (110) These laws include, but are not limited to, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ICCPR), the International Covenant on Social and Cultural Rights (the ICESCR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the CRC), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). (111) In particular, in recognizing rights for women, the ICESCR and CEDAW address the economic and social factors influencing employment and livelihood decisions resulting in the sex industry's growth. (112)

        Notably, CEDAW requires parties to eliminate all forms of gender-based discrimination. (113) CEDAW recognizes that women are more likely to be subject to violence and forms of sexual exploitation because of poverty and unemployment. (114) In addition to prostitution, sex tourism and arranged marriages are noted as forms of sexual exploitation of women because of their economic status. (115) The United Nations has acknowledged that rural women are more likely to face gender-based violence. (116) Rural communities are particularly noted as highly exploitative of women because of their tendency to maintain traditional views of women holding a subordinate role in society. (117)

      2. Domestic Regulations

        The Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia (The Constitution) protects women and children from exploitation. (118) Article 46 of The Constitution specifically prohibits "[t]he commerce of human beings" and exploiting women by forcing them to work as prostitutes. (119) Further, the needs of women living in rural areas are prioritized to ensure the provision of necessary resources for parents to financially provide for their families. (120) In addition to protecting women, The Constitution places an obligation on parents to provide for their children and ensure access to education. (121) It further broadly provides for protection from injuries that affect children's "educational opportunities, health and welfare." (122) Although The Constitution acknowledges the rights of women and children, these rights have not been effectively advocated in the courts. (123)

        In addition to The Constitution, Cambodia has enacted laws regulating prostitution and sex trafficking. (124) In 2008, the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation (the Suppression Law) illegalized soliciting and created protection for women and children from forced prostitution and exploitation. (125) The Suppression Law strictly forbids the sale, purchase, or exchange of individuals, including minors. (126) Corruption, however, has led to inconsistent enforcement of this law because government officials derive a benefit from the sex industry. (127) Specifically, police officers and government officials are known to participate in the sex industry as clients and/or facilitators of trafficking. (128) Further, through Cambodia's Penal Code, the police are able to shut down brothels, but in reality, this results in the prosecution and abuse of sex workers who are picked up during the raids. (129)

    2. Right to Education

      1. International Obligations

        Under international law, both women and children are guaranteed the basic human right to a primary education in Cambodia. (130) Specifically, the CRC recognizes children's right to education as a means of protecting them from economic exploitation. (131) State Parties to the CRC are required to take steps to ensure that secondary education will be "available and accessible" for all children. (132)

        Beyond the basic human right to education recognized under domestic and international law is the Education for All (EFA) movement, which is an international movement for governments, nongovernmental agencies, and other organizations committed to promoting free "basic education for all children, youths, and adults." (133) MoEYS, operating under the Cambodian government, established national goals to achieve education reform through this movement. (134) In particular, the national goals were set to ensure EFA's success by improving both access and quality to education. (135)

      2. Domestic Regulation

        1. Constitution

          Cambodia's Constitution is the cornerstone legislation providing the groundwork for the right to education. (136) First, the nation is required to provide "quality education at all levels" and ensure that it is accessible to all. (137) Second, Cambodia is required to establish a standardized and all-inclusive educational system that will ensure equal access to education. (138) Third, all of the educational programs must match competitive modern demands, such as curriculum on "technology and foreign languages." (139) Finally, primary and secondary education must be free to all citizens enrolled in public school, while children are guaranteed the right to education for up to nine years. (140)

        2. Education Law

          In alignment with The Constitution, Cambodia's Education Law provides a national standard to ensure both children and the nation benefit from the education sector's development. (141) Under this law, Cambodian

          citizens are guaranteed the right to "qualitative education." (142) At the secondary level, which begins in the seventh grade, children are expected to receive the comprehensive training that is crucial necessary to set the foundational knowledge for their long-term "economic and social development." (143) Further, the Education Law sets standards for education personnel, such as teachers, by requiring them to abide by ethical codes, and it also provides for the right to professional development. (144)

        3. Education Plans and Policies

          Beginning in 2001, development policies, known as the five-year Education Strategic Plan (ESP), were implemented to improve Cambodia's education system. (145) An ESP is issued every five years to assess educational objectives and address educational needs; so far, there have been four ESPs. (146) The ESP is designed to assess inefficiencies and to propose measures for achieving improvements to the education system. (147) The latest ESP, ESP 2014-2018, addresses the current state of education in Cambodia, including the inefficiencies accessing education and retention. (148)

    3. Models of Education Reforms

      1. Secondary Education Reform in Asia

        The quality of primary education is important for children and young adults to succeed in secondary school, a level that is most pivotal in defining a child's future development. (149) Secondary education is a crucial component of the education system because it ensures that children develop the skills necessary to enter the competitive, skilled workforce as adults. (150) Increasing attainment in secondary education would help increase "skilled manpower" and promote "economic growth" within Cambodia. (151) One core component of secondary education reform is curriculum improvements, which have been crucial in preparing youth for the job market and providing them with essential skills necessary for "sustainable national development." (152) For this reason, secondary education reforms among some countries with notable education systems have generally centered on curriculum development in the subject areas of science, technology, and information technology. (153)

        Compared to primary education, secondary education reform is more challenging to achieve because of the costs and the subject specific courses emphasized. (154) Among the comparably developed Asia-Pacific countries, secondary education has been prioritized as crucial in improving education outcomes. (155) A 2000 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) study revealed that Cambodia had one of the lowest rates of secondary education enrollment in comparison to other Asian-Pacific countries, a status that has remained relatively unchanged. (156) The costs and resources required to operate secondary schools entails a higher burden on countries like Cambodia, which still relies on donor-funding support for the development of its education system. (157)

      2. Post-Conflict Reform in Rwanda

        Rwanda stands out as an exemplary model for education reform despite its genocide decimating about one million people in 1994.158 During the nation's reconstruction phase after the genocide, the government was relatively stable and peaceful. (159) In 1990, Rwanda's primary school enrollment rate was 67% and it increased to 95% by 2008.160 During its period of education reform, Rwanda's poverty rates greatly declined. (161) Further, Rwanda's economic growth indicates stable recovery after the genocide, with a poverty rate at 78% in 1994, which substantially decreased to 56.5% eleven years later. (162) Compared to Cambodia, Rwanda's education system and attainment rates significantly progressed in just over a ten-year time span. (163)


    Cambodia's existing laws and inadequate efforts to enforce its regulations reflect the country's failure to effectively deter the exploitative sex industry. (164) This is because Cambodia does not adequately address measures limiting entry into the industry. (165) Instead of relying primarily on laws to regulate the sex industry, strengthening education reform is more likely to be an effective, long-term solution for upholding women's rights and deterring women from making work choices that...

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