A Cambodian teenager whose virginity was sold to a man when she was a child has opened up about the horrors of the sex trade in her home country.
Dara Keo, now 17, told Marie Claire that she was just 12 when her mother Rotana sold her to a ‘rich, powerful man’ because she was desperate to pay off her late husband’s gambling debt.
‘His creditors threatened violence when I couldn’t pay,’ explains 62-year-old Rotana, who was earning just $1 a day at the time. ‘Fear and worry about the debts made me ill. Finally, I gave in.’
What ensued was unspeakable but by no means uncommon in Cambodia, where ancient belief derived from Taoist culture dictates that sex with virgins can prolong lifespan.
Keo was first taken to a corrupt doctor who examined her to make sure her hymen was still intact – a veritable worry for the man who purchased her, since many sex traffickers surgically heal girls’ hymens to resell them multiple times.
‘Then I was taken to the man who bought me,’ recalls Keo. ‘I had to stay with him for one week while he raped me many times without a condom.’
he man who purchased Keo was a prominent Cambodian politician, although she and her mother refuse to make his name public.
He kept her in a hotel room for a week and would visit her twice or even three times a day for sex. ‘He was very forceful,’ she says, recalling the pain as ‘excruciating.’
After the week was up, Keo was left with tearing and bruises and she found it ‘agonizing’ to walk or urinate for two weeks.