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Laos opens first shelter to protect female victims of abuse and trafficking

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - The Asia Foundation has opened Laos' first shelter to protect women and children who are victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking, the nonprofit organization said Thursday.
The shelter, a walled compound on the outskirts of the capital, Vientiane, was built on land donated by the government, the San Francisco-based foundation said in a statement. The facility provides trained counselors and can house up to 50 women and children.

"Until now, women who found themselves in violent situations had to return home at night," said Gretchen Kunze of the Asia Foundation.

"This is a huge step forward for Laos," she said, contacted in Vientiane ahead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the shelter to be attended by Laotian officials.

UNICEF and the Japanese Embassy in Laos were among the donors that helped fund the shelter.

The foundation plans to build a vocational training center on the compound to teach job skills, including basic business management and sewing that will enable the women to support themselves, the statement said.

The creation of the center follows legislation passed in October 2004, called the Development and Protection of Women Act, which offers greater protections to victims of domestic abuse and trafficking, the foundation said.

Prior to the shelter's opening, the only center available to female victims of abuse in Laos was a daytime drop-in center where women could seek temporary protection, said Kunze.

The Associated Press.

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