Domestic violence, rape, trafficking : a prevailing culture of violence targeting women.

Press release

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expresses concern about the limited progress achieved in eliminating violence against women.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its members in Cambodia - the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) and the Cambodia Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) - welcome the recommendations addressed to Cambodia by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (« the Committee ») and request the Cambodian authorities to implement these recommendations as soon as possible.

At its 34th session, the Committee considered the combined initial, second and third periodic reports of Cambodia on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The recommendations issued by the Committee reflect many concerns expressed by a coalition of Cambodian NGOs, the Cambodian Committee of Women (CAMBOW) in its alternative report to the Committee. Trafficking, prostitution, rape and domestic violence are ordinary phenomena to the Cambodian society. An expert qualified the extent of trafficking and prostitution as « shocking ». Reports by civil society show that the number of women affected is growing.

Violence against women in Cambodia is linked to traditional stereotypes and particularly the persistence, of « Chbab Srey », a traditional code of conduct taught in schools, which hinders any serious progress in the fight against violence targeting women. This code includes provisions such as « never turn your back to your husband when he sleeps and never touch his head without first bowing in honor » or « have patience, prove your patience, never respond to his excessive anger ». « How is it possible to fight domestic violence without challenging the code of conduct for women », asked an expert to the Government. The Committee recommends that the Cambodian authorities, together with all relevant sectors of society, undertake a comprehensive assessment of the traditional code of conduct so as to identify those elements that discriminate against women and are the root causes of women’s disadvantaged position, and refrain from disseminating and teaching those elements.

The culture of impunity is further reinforced by the corruption and deficiencies in the Judiciary. "The Committee is concerned that women face significant obstacles in accessing justice because of a lack of trust in the judicial system, the arbitrary interpretation of the criminal law by judges in favour of perpetrators, the prevalence of impunity of perpetrators, the limited availability of legal aid and the high cost of medical certificates that are required in cases of rape and sexual assault. The Committee is also concerned about the persistence of permissive attitudes towards gender-based violence and that women fear stigmatization when seeking remedies."

"Additional efforts are necessary in order to fight violence against women and promote gender equality. We hope that the Cambodian authorities will now ensure the proper follow-up by fully enforcing the Committee’s recommendations", concluded ADHOC, LICADHO and FIDH.

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