If I learned one thing in Cambodia, it’s that the Khmer love karaoke. I remember lying in bed at night, trying to fall asleep despite the stifling heat, and hearing a medley of Khmer songs and Shania Twain drift in through the windows.
One night in Phnom Penh our team visited a local karaoke bar. Unfortunately, prostitution frequently occurs at karaoke bars and women are often lined up at the entrance of the bar.
At this bar, on the left were women dressed in formal wear that men in Cambodia would traditionally find attractive. On the right were women dressed in more revealing, “western” outfits. As men enter the bar they can choose a “companion” for the night. The woman will then accompany the customer for the night, doing whatever the man desires; Which is sometimes just a date, but is often more.
While in Cambodia, we met some teens who work at karaoke bars like this one. All of them said they didn’t have contracts with their employers and complained that they were frequently forced to drink. They mentioned they are also often forced to do whatever the customers want because many of them carry weapons. When asked why they were working at the bar, all of them said they were working to help provide for their family.
While at the karaoke bar, our team did a spirited rendition of “My Heart Will Go On.” Everyone just stared, in shock, confusion and embarrassment on our behalf; except for one man who was enthusiastically waving his arms in the air and cheering us on.
It was a memorable and fun night, but also an eye opening and sobering one. Seeing girls my own age denied an education and subjected to abuse and ridicule was heart wrenching.
I turn 20 on May 5th, and for my 20th birthday, my wish is hope for girls in Cambodia. I desire that they will be in an environment that enriches and encourages them. I hope for them to be loved, protected and cherished.
Please consider donating to SHE Rescue, an organization we worked with in Cambodia. SHE is an aftercare home for girls who have been raped, sold and/or rescued out of the sex industry in Cambodia. SHE provides therapy, spiritual formation, a safe and loving family environment for these girls, the opportunity to go to school and the time to heal.
Click here to donate. Every little bit helps.