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Jacobsen, T. (2014). Debt Bondage in Cambodia’s Past—and Implications for Its Present. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 15(1):32-43.

(2014). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 15(1):32-43

Debt Bondage in Cambodia’s Past—and Implications for Its Present

Trude Jacobsen, Ph.D.

In the Cambodian past, strict guidelines detailed punishments and compensatory arrangements should laws concerning the treatment of persons temporarily entered into debt bondage be transgressed. Although the legal protections that these permitted were abolished by the French colonial administration, the practices themselves remained. Not all “slaves” were condemned to a life of servitude; often, individuals or their families entered into contracts in which their labor was pledged for a set period. Daughters’ labor could most easily be given up by families seeking to borrow a lump sum from a wealthy patron. When laws protecting such girls were removed, there was no longer any effective barrier preventing their temporary masters and mistresses from abusing them. The initial failure of colonial legislators to understand debt bondage as distinct from slavery explains the endurance of human trafficking and the proliferation of increasingly younger children in the sex sector in Cambodia today.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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