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The Hidden World Of Cambodia's Sex Workers: New Risks, New Hope

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When Cambodia's government closed the brothels, sex workers in Phnom Penh scattered to bars and entertainment venues.
Steve Sapienza for NPR
When Cambodia's government closed the brothels, sex workers in Phnom Penh scattered to bars and entertainment venues.

In 2008, Cambodia passed a law that closed its brothels. The goal was to prevent human trafficking. But there was a tragic unintended consequence. It upended a government program designed to distribute condoms and screen for sexually transmitted diseases like HIV at brothels. When the sex workers scattered, there was no easy way to reach them.

Out of the shadows emerged a volunteer organization called SMARTgirl, comprised of active and former sex workers, that has been working to fill the void.

Video journalist Steve Sapienza wanted to see how the outreach and prevention efforts were faring. In February 2014, he traveled to Phnom Penh to produce a documentary, which is premiering on NPR.org.

Reporting for this story was supported by The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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